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Keywords:

  • assisted living;
  • nursing homes;
  • long-term care;
  • suicide;
  • self-harm

Objective

Suicide risk is highest in later life; however, little is known about the risk of suicide among older adults in long-term care facilities (e.g., nursing homes and assisted living facilities). The goal of this paper is to review and synthesize the descriptive and analytic epidemiology of suicide in long-term care settings over the past 25 years.

Methods

Four databases (PubMed, CINAHL Plus, Web of Knowledge, and EBSCOHost Academic Search Complete) were searched for empirical studies of suicide risk in nursing homes, assisted living, and other residential facilities from 1985 to 2013. Of the 4073 unique research articles identified, 37 were selected for inclusion in this review.

Results

Of the included reports, 21 were cross-sectional, 8 cohort, 3 qualitative, and 5 intervention studies. Most studies indicate that suicidal thoughts (active and passive) are common among residents (prevalence in the past month: 5–33%), although completed suicide is rare. Correlates of suicidal thoughts among long-term care residents include depression, social isolation, loneliness, and functional decline. Most studies examined only individual-level correlates of suicide, although there is suggestive evidence that organizational characteristics (e.g., bed size and staffing) may also be relevant.

Conclusions

Existing research on suicide risk in long-term care facilities is limited but suggests that this is an important issue for clinicians and medical directors to be aware of and address. Research is needed on suicide risk in assisted living and other non-nursing home residential settings, as well as the potential role of organizational characteristics on emotional well-being for residents. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.