Suicide in older people: mode of death, demographic factors, and medical contact before death
Article first published online: 31 JUL 2000
Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Volume 15, Issue 8, pages 736–743, August 2000
How to Cite
Harwood, D. M. J., Hawton, K., Hope, T. and Jacoby, R. (2000), Suicide in older people: mode of death, demographic factors, and medical contact before death. Int. J. Geriat. Psychiatry, 15: 736–743. doi: 10.1002/1099-1166(200008)15:8<736::AID-GPS214>3.0.CO;2-K
- Issue published online: 31 JUL 2000
- Article first published online: 31 JUL 2000
- Manuscript Accepted: 12 JAN 2000
- Manuscript Received: 9 NOV 1999
- coroner's inquest;
To determine the demographic characteristics, mode of death, and nature and timing of medical contacts in the year before death in a sample of suicides in older people.
Descriptive study of a case series of 195 suicides in older people.
Four counties and one large urban area in central England, UK.
Individuals 60 years old and over at time of death, who had died between 1 January 1995 and 1 May 1998, and whose deaths has received a coroner's verdict of suicide, or an open or accidental verdict where the circumstances of death indicated probable suicide.
Main Outcome Measures
Demographic details and information on mode of death and medical contact prior to death derived from coroners' inquest notes, General Practitioners' (GP) case-notes and psychiatric records.
67.7% were male. A higher proportion of men than women were single or divorced. The commonest methods of suicide were hanging in men and drug overdose in women, 49.8% had seen their GP in the month before death, although over half these last consultations were for physical complaints. Only 15.4% were under psychiatric care at the time of death.
Older men are at higher risk of suicide than women. Given the high proportion of drug overdoses in the sample, effective strategies to prevent suicide in older people might include improving the prescribing of analgesics and antidepressants. Although older people at risk of suicide often consult their GP shortly before death, GPs may have difficulty identifying those at risk because of the high proportion of physical complaints. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.