Gender Differences in the Journey to Suicide: Comparing distance decay functions of home and found locations in missing person reports to the police

Catherine Stevens BSc University of Liverpool

Susan Giles PhD University of Liverpool

Freya O’Brien PhD University of Liverpool



To date, no research has examined the decay models that best describe male and female spatial behaviours whilst missing, particularly of those that demonstrate suicide intent. Such knowledge could help to inform investigative strategies. Three studies were conducted using missing persons data from two police forces. In study 1, ANOVA and Mann-Whitney U tests examined the distance travelled by male (n=158) and female (n=135) subgroups; with respect to the impact of gender, likely suicidal and vehicle possession. Study 2a considers which curve estimate best describes likely and non-likely suicidal males (n=180) and females (n=157) spatial movements whilst missing. Study 2b cross validated suicidal male curves identified in study 2a, using information taken from missing persons cases where the person had been found to have died through suicide (N=24). Vehicle possession increased the distance travelled across all groups. Females travelled further than suicidal males, however, no distance travelled differences were found between suicide and non-suicidal sub-groups. The most significant curve estimate for likely suicidal males and females were the inverse and quadratic models respectively, illustrating exclusive gender movements in journeys to suicide. There are meaningful gender differences in spatial movements when missing. Thus, gender specified search parameters can be generated, potentially aiding quicker detection, prevention and safeguarding of adults at risk of self-harm.

KEY WORDS: Geographical profiling, distance decay, suicide, gender

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