Objective: Suicide rates increase in late life. There is, however, a gap in understanding suicide in the very old. We aimed to underscore the evidence for high rates of death by suicide in the oldest-old men (age 85+) in New Zealand and to provide a conjectural discussion about factors driving these rates.
Method: Provisional suicide data were obtained from the New Zealand Coronial Services website for the period 2011-2019. Yearly suicide rates for those aged 85+ were plotted over time. Mean suicide rates were calculated for three youth and young adult male cohorts, identified by the Coroner as having very high rates, and compared with the 85+ age cohort.
Results: Between 2011 and 2019, rates of death by suicide of older males remained consistently high never overlapping female suicide rates. Mean suicide deaths/100,000 population for all four age cohorts were comparable; 15-19 years: 23.5; 20-24 years: 29.0; 25-29 years: 27.0; 85+ years: 27.9.
Conclusions: Deaths by suicide are very high for older males. In addition to established risk factors, psychosocial adversity as reflected by loneliness, poverty and shift to residential care may be major reasons for the high suicide rates. Research to inform about this vulnerable population and prevention are urgently needed.
Keywords: ageing; male; suicide.
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