Holocaust experience and suicidal ideation in high-risk older adults

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. Jan-Feb 2004;12(1):65-74.

Abstract

Objective: Depression is an identified risk factor for suicidal ideation, a precursor for more serious suicidal behaviors. This risk might be further compounded in individuals who experience negative life events, including traumatic experiences, and those who might have comorbid illnesses. The authors examined the impact of past exposure to the Nazi Holocaust on the development of suicidal ideation in a sample of depressed older adults.

Methods: Authors conducted a retrospective cross-sectional study. The study sample comprised data on 530 consecutive eligible first admissions of Jewish patients who were referred and admitted to a geriatric psychiatry day hospital program between September 1986 and December 2000.

Results: Multiple logistic-regression analyses, controlling for social support, history of suicide attempts, and other negative life events, showed that severity of depression and exposure to the Holocaust were independently associated with suicidal ideation. Those not showing suicidal ideation were slightly more likely to have reported having a confidant.

Conclusions: This is the first empirical study to demonstrate an increased likelihood for suicidal ideation in survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. The chronic stress produced by these traumatic events may have predisposed survivors to cope ineffectively as they age, thus resulting in suicidal ideation. Authors highlight the importance of a multifaceted approach when assessing suicidal behaviors in high-risk groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Holocaust / psychology
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / rehabilitation
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*
  • Survivors / psychology*