Objective: To determine the rates of psychiatric disorder and personality variables in a sample of older people who had committed suicide and to compare the rates in a subgroup of this sample with those in a control group of people who died from natural causes.
Design: Descriptive psychological autopsy study, including interviews with informants, of psychiatric and personality factors in 100 suicides in older people. Case-control study using subgroup of 54 cases and matched control group.
Setting: Four counties and one large urban area in central England, UK.
Subjects: Individuals 60 years old and over at the time of death who had died between 1 January 1995 and 1 May 1998, and whose deaths had received a coroner's verdict of suicide (or an open or accidental verdict, where the circumstances of death indicated probable suicide). The control group was an age-and sex-matched sample of people dying through natural causes in the same time period.
Main outcome measures: ICD-10 psychiatric disorder, personality disorder and trait accentuation.
Main results: Seventy-seven per cent of the suicide sample had a psychiatric disorder at the time of death, most often depression (63%). Personality disorder or personality trait accentuation was present in 44%, with anankastic or anxious traits the most frequent. Depression, personality disorder, and personality trait accentuation emerged as predictors of suicide in the case-control analysis.
Conclusion: Personality factors, as well as depression, are important risk factors for suicide in older people.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.