Old Mate

əʊld meɪt

n. Australian colloquialism

1) A word to describe a good friend

2) A word to describe a perfect stranger, or someone’s name you don’t know

3) A replacement term for a person's name

Over 2,300 Australian men suicide each year in Australia - and this number is rising. Most resources and focus towards men’s mental health is aimed at younger men between the ages of the 14-44, which is understandable: Suicide is, proportionately, the leading cause of death amongst men in this age bracket.

Suicide as a proportion of means of death

Suicide proportionately accounts for just 0.5% of deaths in men aged over 70 - which seems relatively small. However, these statistics, are misleading.

In "real numbers", the rate of suicide increases exponentially as men reach old age - particularly amongst men aged 85+. In fact, men in this age bracket suicide at twice the national average:

Number of suicides

(Statistics from Australian Bureau of Statistics)


The driving factors behind poor mental health and suicide in older men are wide ranging and often complex. However, core factors largely fall into the following categories:

Living with illness (physical and mental)

Loss of connections, relationships and people

Financial limitations

Loss of independence / autonomy / dignity

Loss of privilege

Stoic, generational and cultural beliefs that prevent help seeking

These factors are compounded by under-diagnosis or failure to recognise symptoms of depression and anxiety as “normal, elderly behaviour”. These symptoms may include eating problems, sleeping trouble, shyness, timidity, frustration, hypochondriasis, seclusiveness, etc.

The above symptoms may set also contribute to a negative spiral of self-isolation, further compounding the issues and limiting support channels.

Connectedness and support networks are key in fostering positive mental health and reducing the rate of suicide.