Risk factors for late-life suicide: a prospective, community-based study

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. Jul-Aug 2002;10(4):398-406.


Despite the fact that people age 65 and older have the highest rates of suicide of any age-group, late-life suicide has a low prevalence, making it difficult to conduct prospective studies. The authors examined risk factors for late-life suicide on the basis of general information collected directly from older subjects participating in a community-based prospective study of aging, the Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly. Demographic variables, presence of a relative or friend to confide in, alcohol use, and sleep quality were assessed at baseline interview. Baseline and follow-up data were used to determine physical, cognitive, and affective functioning, as well as medical status. Of 14,456 people, 21 committed suicide over the 10-year observation period. Depressive symptoms, perceived health status, sleep quality, and absence of a relative or friend to confide in predicted late-life suicide. Suicide victims did not have greater alcohol use and did not report more medical illness or physical impairment. This study provided additional information about the context of late-life depression that also contributes to suicidal behavior: poor perceived health, poor sleep quality, and limited presence of a relative or friend to confide in.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged / psychology*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support
  • Suicide / psychology*