Is white privilege causing old white men to kill themselves?

A new study by a CSU prof suggests white American men may be killing themselves more than other demographics because of relative social comforts and cultural assumptions about what being a “real man” looks like.

Old white men can count themselves among the victims of white male privilege. They kill themselves at a higher rate than any other demographic in the United States, though they have more resources than older white women and ethnic minorities.

Relative lifelong social comfort may explain the fragility of older white males’ emotional state when dealing with “the indignities of aging,” suggests a new study by Colorado State University professor of psychology, Silvia Sara Canetto, who has spent her career studying cultural narratives of suicide.

White men tend to have a rigid sense of who they are, Canetto says. They feel obliged to act out the social script of masculinity: no belly aching, no mourning, just suck it up and deal — and if you can’t suppress your emotions, do the heroic thing and quit.

Canetto’s study looks at two cases: George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, who died by suicide at 77, and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who killed himself at 67.

“The dominant story was that their suicide was a rational, courageous, powerful choice,” Canetto said in a statement.

The phenomenon of older men — white or not — killing themselves at higher rates is not global, said Canetto. In China, young adult women have the highest suicide rates.

Marco Belli, Creative Commons, Flickr


  1. Cant help but think some of the conservative older boomers aren’t much more than spoiled man-children who fear a future where they may have to be the racial minority. They can’t cope with not being number one.

  2. I certainly hope no public money is used to support this “research”. Let’s look at the 2 examples cited. Kodak had a severe debilitating spine disease which caused excruciating pain and limited his mobility. He had watched his mother die for 2 years of the same disease. Thompson was a manic depressive alcoholic and drug abuser. Fancy someone like that committing suicide. What tripe.
    Perhaps white males are killing themselves for the same reason they did in the Great Depression. They have diminished self worth because of the ongoing economic depression. But I guess if you’ve always lived off the public teat you wouldn’t know what that is.

  3. Not only is this “research” unbelievably biased and hateful – it’s downright dangerous. Older white men DO NOT commit suicide because of “privilege”, but because of male disposability. Our society only values men for what they produce for others. When they age, they no longer produce for others and feel like a burden.

  4. Td, the suicide rate for older white women has increased even more than for older white men, though the rate for men is still far higher. Maybe that’s okay, as long as they’re white. I’m not sure they’re all conservative, though.
    Sven, I agree, making up stories about two famous people does not constitute a study. She did find some other info that she made up stories about though.
    Janice, you’re right, and I thank you for your comment. I don’t need to hear right now that the reason I want to die is because I’m a spoiled brat who can’t handle any kind of adversity. I’ve been telling that to myself for many years already.
    I’m not going to die now, because many people love me, and I love them, and because my death would make Td so happy.

  5. Social justice types like TD are a cancer upon decent society. I respect all people until they out themselves as a maniac hateful SJW like Td. Types like Td and the author of this biased should be laughed and scolded out of the room like the uneducated hateful crybullies they are.

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