Elderly suicide attempters: characteristics and outcome

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2006 Nov;21(11):1052-9. doi: 10.1002/gps.1605.


Purpose: We made a descriptive survey to assess the outcome of elderly patients discharged from a hospital psychiatric service after a suicide attempt (rates of overall mortality and repeat attempts), to identify the factors that had a significant impact on their survival and to determine patient characteristics.

Methods: Fifty-nine suicide attempters over 60 years of age admitted to hospital between 1993 and 2000 were included in the study. Their outcome was assessed by questioning their attending physicians over the telephone. We traced 51 of the 59 patients; 8 were lost to follow-up. Statistical analysis (Log Rank tests, Cox model) was computed to determine which factors altered the overall survival and the survival without further attempt. The patients sociodemographic, medical and psychiatric characteristics were recorded from hospital patient files.

Results: Elderly suicide attempters showed an increased mortality from suicide and natural causes and the risk of a repeat attempt increased in female patients with memory disorders. The factors altering survival were advanced age, pre-existing physical disability, several co-existing physical illnesses, severe physical consequences of the suicide attempt, history of psychiatric illness other than depression, memory disorders and one previous suicide attempt. The elderly suicide attempter was most likely to be a widowed woman suffering from social isolation, loneliness and depression.

Conclusion: Elderly suicide attempters remained both physically and mentally vulnerable after their attempt. A repeat act represents a turning point in personal life progression which it is essential to detect.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cause of Death
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Sex Factors
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*