The presence of dissatisfaction with life or thoughts of death or suicide has been variously surveyed in adolescent samples and in the general population, but there is a paucity of research on the elderly. The aim of this study was to assess, in an elderly community-dwelling population: a) the prevalence of death and/or suicidal feelings and thoughts and any attempted suicides; and b) factors associated with these experiences. A total of 611 over-65-year-old subjects were interviewed at home. Seventeen percent of the total (F:M = almost 2:1) responded affirmatively to at least one of the questions on suicidality. Elderly people reporting suicidal feelings presented markedly higher levels of physical and psychological distress, such as depression, anxiety, and hostility. Results indirectly confirm that depressive symptomatology is not adequately treated. Greater attention is warranted in psychological evaluation of the elderly to take into account those risk factors that, if identified and managed, could reduce the frequency of suicidal thoughts and, probably, associated actions.
1 WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Suicide Prevention, Department of Neurological and Psychiatric Sciences, University of Padua, Italy.
2 Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, Mt. Gravatt Campus, Griffith University, 4111 Queensland, Australia. Send reprint requests to Prof. De Leo.
This work was supported in part by a grant from Regione Veneto, Italy (449/05/1994).