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Keywords:

  • behaviour;
  • gender perspective;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • older people;
  • review

Aim.  This article presents the findings of a systematic review of the literature on suicidal behaviour in old age, specifically examining gender differences.

Background.  Numerous studies have reported that older people are at a higher risk for suicide than other age groups in most countries. Rarely do they examine whether there are differences in suicidal behaviour among older males and females.

Design.  Systematic review.

Methods.  Electronic databases were systematically searched to identify English language reports of research about suicide and suicide attempts in old age. Studies were assessed for inclusion based on inclusion criteria. Key results concerning suicide in old age were extracted and synthesised.

Results.  Twenty-two gender-specific studies on suicidal behaviour in old age were identified. All studies were of the quantitative type. Five factors affecting suicide by gender in old age were identified from the selected papers.

Conclusions.  Most findings concluded that older males had a higher risk of suicide than older females. Some findings nevertheless revealed that the risk factors for one socio-demographic group may be less relevant to others and that people operate differently in different social contexts. Further in-depth exploration on the gender-specific characteristics in old-age suicide is recommended.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Health professionals are encouraged to increase their knowledge of the risk factors leading to suicide in old age in their local contexts and to be able to identify potential victims and render timely and appropriate intervention. They should also be ready to open up their service boundaries and develop collaborative partnerships with local agencies and the general public.