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Crisis. 1998;19(1):35-46.

A study of elderly suicides in Hong Kong.

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Department of Social Work and Social Administration, University of Hong Kong.


Hong Kong has one of the highest rates of suicide among the elderly in the world. Most of the existing suicide prevention programs have had very little effect on the elderly, who rarely utilize these programs. This study aims to help in understanding the problem, so that effective prevention can be provided to this high-risk group of suicidal people. Specifically, the study (1) describes the characteristics of the suicidal elderly, (2) investigates the reason(s) why the elderly are in distress and become suicidal, and (3) formulates a policy and service model to reach the elderly high-risk group. This research project involves secondary data analysis. Police records on elderly suicide cases in 1992 were scrutinized to find out the major reason(s) for fatal death in the elderly. Our study points out those districts that are more crowded and have fewer medical and social facilities tended to have higher suicide rates. Most of the deaths occurred at home or nearby, and the suicidal elderly were alone before their death. The majority of elderly suicide victims suffered from chronic diseases. Very few of them, however, were totally dependent: About 40% of the cases had consulted medical practitioners, and 27% had consulted psychiatrists within one month before their deaths. Close to 70% of the cases had indicated to family members or other their suicidal thoughts, and many of them had revealed numerous suicidal indications. Both policy and practice issues are discussed in light of the findings.

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