Late onset suicide: distinction between "young-old" vs. "old-old" suicide victims. How different populations are they?

Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2012 Jan-Feb;54(1):136-9. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2011.02.011. Epub 2011 Mar 11.


Elderly suicide rates are the highest of any age group. Greece is among the countries with the highest proportion of elderly people in the European Union (EU). Elderly suicide victims seem to possess different characteristics. Aim of our study was to elucidate the different characteristics of elderly suicide victims. Data was collected from a two-year psychological autopsy study, conducted at the Athens' Department of Forensic Medicine, the largest in Greece. Elderly suicide victims represented 35% of total suicides. The majority (69.5%) were males. Only 12.4% had previous psychiatric hospitalization but more than half (65.2%) had psychiatric history (81% of them had history of depression). As expected, there was a high incidence of physical illness (81.6%). The majority (82%) of the elderly suicide victims made a suicide attempt for the first time and it was unfortunately successful. When the elderly suicide victims were divided in two categories ("young-old" and "old-old") the differences between the two groups were: elderly over 75 years had more physical problems and more frequently positive psychiatric history without ever been hospitalized for psychiatric problems. Late life suicides seem to encapsulate population groups with different characteristics. Their differences can be a useful guide aiming to formulate specific suicide prevention strategies. This is of great importance, given the very high frequency of completed suicides in this age group.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Greece / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data