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Keywords:

  • suicidal ideation;
  • depression;
  • geriatrics

Abstract

Background

Suicidal ideation among acutely medically ill elderly inpatients has been sparsely studied. A prospective study measuring the prevalence, correlates and longitudinal stability of suicidal ideation in acutely medically ill elderly inpatients was undertaken.

Method

Suicidal ideation was measured using the Beck Scale for Suicidal Ideation (BSSI) and the items of pessimism, life not worth living and a wish to die on the Brief Assessment Schedule (BAS). Formal measures of physical illness, functional disability and handicap were also used. Patients were seen at the outset and at about 6 months.

Results

The prevalence of suicidal ideation on the BSSI and the BAS items of pessimism, life not worth living and a wish to die were 36%, 60%, 33% and 22%, respectively. These four variables were significantly inter-correlated. The BSSI was significantly associated with BAS depression scores (P=0.0001), BAS depression caseness (P=0.0001) and prescription of antidepressants (P=0.007). Similar results were ascertained for the BAS items of pessimism, life not worth living and a wish to die.

Conclusions

Further studies examining the longitudinal stability of suicidal ideation coupled with intervention studies to reduce suicidal ideation are required. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.