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Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2010 Dec;25(12):1230-8. doi: 10.1002/gps.2473.

Suicide in later life: public health and practitioner perspectives.

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Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King's College London, UK.



Suicide in later life is a public health concern. Given the need for practical guidance and policy implementation, this paper aims to provide a critical interpretive synthesis approach to prioritize the likely relevance of publications and the contribution that they make to understanding of the problem.


A selective review of the English language literature focusing on the epidemiology of suicide among older people was conducted; the search strategy built on that of a previous review. Papers were selected for their ability to shed light on the potential for prevention and practice from public health perspectives.


Whilst the majority of older people who commit suicide have major depression, suicide seems to be due to a combination of personality factors and co-morbidities, including chronic pain and disablement. Complex multi-component public health studies are underway and are likely to provide useful knowledge to guide practice more precisely, but there is remarkably little information about the involvement of older people in risk reduction or about harm minimization approaches at patient and public participation levels.


For lack of sufficient evidence from intervention trials that are specific to older people, practitioners need to extrapolate from studies of younger adults and be aware of risk factors for suicide in later life. Public health approaches combined with practitioners' experiences of older people at risk may help minimize the risks of suicide in later life. These are fruitful areas for collaborative practice development, service initiatives, evaluation, and research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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