Suicide in later life

Helen Chiu, Sandra Chan and Joshua Tsoh

in Casebook of clinical geropsychology

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199583553
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754678 | DOI:
Suicide in later life

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Suicide is a tragic end to an individual's life and public health crisis for the global community. In 2002, an estimated 877,000 lives were lost worldwide through suicide, representing 1.5% of the global burden of disease or more than 20 million years of healthy life lost through premature death/disability (World Health Organization [WHO], 2003). The United Nations (UN) estimates that by 2020, the population over 60 years of age will reach 1 billion, with 70% residing in developing countries (United Nations Population Division/DESA, 2009). Older adults, as the fastest growing population segment worldwide, are at greater risk for suicide than any other age group (Stevens et al., 1999; WHO, 1999). With the suicide death toll expected to climb in this high-risk age group in a rapidly aging population, calls to translate research findings into effective prevention and postvention strategies become all the more compelling. The design of effective suicide prevention strategies hinges on the identification of specific and quantifiable risk factors in epidemiological, cohort, and retrospective case-control psychological autopsy (PA) studies. As suicide is a multidetermined tragic outcome, further research is needed to define more precisely the interactions among emotional, physical, and social factors that determine risk for suicide in older adults. To provide a foundation for the case vignettes on later life attempted and completed suicide presented in this chapter, we begin with a broad overview of the correlates/risk factors for suicide and findings related to the application of prevention and postvention strategies in later life.

Chapter.  13863 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry ; Geriatric Medicine

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