Objectives: In most Western and Asian countries, a higher risk of suicide is found among elderly people than those in other age groups. However, the treatment needs of elderly people who are at risk of committing suicide are not well understood. We conducted an overview of studies that assessed the impact of suicide prevention interventions on suicide rates in elderly people in Japan. We interpreted the results of these studies, as well as prominent findings associated with other successful interventions, within a framework of the suicidal process and preventive strategies.
Method: We assessed six quasi-experimental studies of community-based interventions providing universal depression screening, subsequent care, and education to elderly people in Japan, and performed a combined analysis of outcome data.
Results: Screening interventions were associated with lower suicide rates. We also found a gender difference in the response to subsequent psychiatric or primary care. Two types of interventions decreased the rate of suicide among elderly people: crisis helplines and screening interventions. These interventions featured a close link between universal, selective, and indicated prevention strategies, which reflect different approaches tailored to the size and risk profile of the target individuals.
Conclusion: Successful interventions appear to hinge on systematic links between multi-level prevention interventions. Multi-level interventions for depression screening may result in lower suicide rates among elderly individuals in communities, although primary care interventions alone appear to be insufficient in men. The benefit of linked multi-level prevention interventions may highlight the importance of the multiple steps and components of the suicidal process.
Keywords: combined analysis; depression; multi-level prevention; screening; suicide.