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Suicide and attempted suicide in older people 

Suicide and attempted suicide in older people
Suicide and attempted suicide in older people

Helen Chiu

and Joshua Tsoh

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date: 22 October 2021

Attempted and completed suicide among older adults are global public health challenges of escalating significance. This chapter presents epidemiological data on such behaviours, and addresses the risk factors in the domains of mental health, personality, physical health and functioning, social factors (e.g. life events and social support) and neurobiological mechanisms, as derived from retrospective (mainly psychological autopsy [PA] studies) and prospective case-control studies. Suicide prevention initiatives in the elderly have taken a great stride forward in the past decade based on better understanding of the risk and protective factors. Given the complex, multi-determined nature of suicidal behaviours, further improvements will require sustained collaborations across clinicians, researchers, health administrators and politicians in different nations. Furthermore, older males are generally at higher risk of suicide than females; they tend to use more lethal means in their suicide acts, are more susceptible to the effects of bereavement and widowhood, and respond less favourably to comprehensive suicide prevention programs. Further research on the gender differences of suicidal behaviours is urgently needed, to understand the different underlying psychopathological mechanisms, and to adequately address the healthcare needs of older men, the largest group of completed suicides across the world.

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