Purpose: In this study we evaluate outcomes of a community-based program to prevent suicide among elderly individuals aged 65 and older.
Design and methods: We used a quasi-experimental design with intervention and referent municipalities. The program included a 7-year implementation of depression screening with follow-up by general practitioners and a 10-year implementation of public education conducted in Yasuzuka (population 4,940; elderly suicide rate for women, 275/100,000; for men, 323/100,000). We estimated changes in the risk of completing suicide before and after the 10-year implementation by the incidence-rate ratio (IRR).
Results: The risk for women in the intervention area was reduced by 64% (age-adjusted IRR=0.36; 95% confidence interval=0.14-0.93), whereas there was no significant change in the risk for men in the intervention area and either men or women in the referent municipalities. A ratio of the IRR for women aged 65 to 74 in the intervention area to that in its prefecture was estimated at 0.23 (90% confidence interval=0.05-0.99), showing that the risk reduction was greater than the secular trend.
Implications: The management of depression by use of community resources involving public health and primary care physicians is effective in the prevention of suicide for elderly women but uncertain for men.