Objective: To examine some of the risk factors for late life suicide in Hong Kong Chinese using a case-controlled psychological autopsy approach.
Method: Informants of 70 subjects aged 60 or above who had committed suicide as well as a community sample of 100 elderly controls were interviewed. Subjects and controls were assessed for the presence of mental illness, history of suicide attempt and data on health care utilization.
Results: Eighty-six per cent of suicide subjects suffered from a psychiatric problem before committing suicide, compared with 9% of control subjects. Among the psychiatric problems, major depression was the commonest diagnosis. Seventy-seven per cent of suicide subjects had consulted a doctor within 1 month of suicide. One-third of suicide subjects had a history of suicide attempt. Rates of current psychiatric diagnosis, rates of medical consultation and history of suicide attempt are all significantly higher in suicide subjects than controls.
Conclusion: Our findings support the view that depressive disorders and a past history of suicide attempt are risk factors of late-life suicide in the Chinese population of Hong Kong, similar to findings in western studies.