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J Psychiatr Res. 2013 Jul;47(7):980-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.02.009. Epub 2013 Mar 21.

Suicides in older adults: a case-control psychological autopsy study in Australia.

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Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, National Centre of Excellence in Suicide Prevention World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Suicide Prevention, Griffith University, Australia.



The present study aims to analyse predicting factors of suicide among older adults compared to sudden death controls and middle-aged suicides.


During the period 2006-2008, at two Australian sites, the psychological autopsy method was utilised to investigate suicides of individuals over the age of 35 by interviewing next-of-kin and healthcare professionals. A case-control study design was applied using sudden death cases as controls. Initial information was gathered from coroner's offices. Potential informants were approached and interviews were conducted using a semi-structured format.


In total, 261 suicides (73 aged 60+) and 182 sudden deaths (79 aged 60+) were involved. Older adult suicides showed a significantly lower prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses (62%) when compared to middle-aged suicide cases (80%). In both age groups, subjects who died by suicide were significantly more likely to present a psychiatric diagnosis, compared to controls; however, diagnosis did not remain in the final prediction model for older adults. Hopelessness and past suicide attempts remained in the final model for both age groups. In addition, living alone was an important predictor of suicide in older adults.


Although mood disorders represent an important target for suicide prevention in old age, there should be increased attention for other risk factors including psychosocial, environmental, and general health aspects of late life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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