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Crisis. 2011;32(4):204-16. doi: 10.1027/0227-5910/a000078.

Understanding why older people develop a wish to die: a qualitative interview study.

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1
Department of Public and Occupational Health, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Quantitative studies in several European countries showed that 10-20% of older people have or have had a wish to die.

AIMS:

To improve our understanding of why some older people develop a wish to die.

METHODS:

In-depth interviews with people with a wish to die (n = 31) were carried out. Through open coding and inductive analysis, we developed a conceptual framework to describe the development of death wishes. Respondents were selected from two cohort studies.

RESULTS:

The wish to die had either been triggered suddenly after traumatic life events or had developed gradually after a life full of adversity, as a consequence of aging or illness, or after recurring depression. The respondents were in a situation they considered unacceptable, yet they felt they had no control to change their situation and thus progressively "gave up" trying. Recurring themes included being widowed, feeling lonely, being a victim, being dependent, and wanting to be useful. Developing thoughts about death as a positive thing or a release from problems seemed to them like a way to reclaim control.

CONCLUSIONS:

People who wish to die originally develop thoughts about death as a positive solution to life events or to an adverse situation, and eventually reach a balance of the wish to live and to die.

PMID:
21940258
DOI:
10.1027/0227-5910/a000078
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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