Send to

Choose Destination
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.

Author information

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



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


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


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.


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.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon
Loading ...
Support Center