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Z Gerontol Geriatr. 2014 Aug;47(6):502-7. doi: 10.1007/s00391-013-0563-z.

Physical distress and relationship problems: exploring the psychosocial and intrapsychic world of suicidal geriatric patients.

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  • 1Medizinisch-Geriatrische Klinik, Albertinen-Haus, Zentrum für Geriatrie und Gerontologie, Wissenschaftliche Einrichtung der Universität Hamburg, Sellhopsweg 18-22, 20257, Hamburg, Germany,



Suicide is a serious mental health problem in old age. Suicide ideation and life weariness are important psychopathological issues in geriatric medicine, although suicide ideation does not primarily depend on the severity of any physical disease. Despite these facts, insight into the internal psychological state of suicidal geriatric patients is still limited.


This study examines intrapsychic and psychosocial issues in suicidal geriatric inpatients. A semistructured interview concerning suicide ideation in old age was used to interview 20 randomly chosen, acutely suicidal clinically geriatric inpatients aged 60 years and older. The control group comprised 20 nonsuicidal patients.


Hamilton Depression Scale 21 scores (HAMD 21; patient mean 17.3, control mean 6.1), suicidal ideation and psychiatric treatments differed significantly between the groups. In contrast to lifetime suicidal ideation, the discovery of a physical disease was the primary trigger for current suicidal ideation, followed by interactional conflicts. Patients would rather speak with family or friends than professionals about their suicidal ideation.


Suicidal ideation should be recognised as an important psychological problem in geriatric patients with interpersonal conflicts. Specific help and training for relatives is recommended.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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