Suicide factors studied for older Queenslanders

As men grow olderthe prevalence of suicide becomes more frequent while women in the same age range show no increase, new research fromGriffith University has found.

Research from Griffith University’s Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) has given a deeper understanding of the personal risk factors for suicide among older people in Queensland

Using the Queensland Suicide Register, the AISRAP team investigated trends in suicides of older adults from 2000 to 2012 and found that although the rates werenot increasing, they remained consistently high, especially for men.

“We examined adult subgroups with age ranges of 65-74, 75-84 and 85 years and over,” says Dr Kairi Kolves.

“For the first subgroup, there was an average of 20 male suicides per 100,000 people between 2000 and 2012. For the second subgroup, 27 male suicides per 100,000 and the third subgroup, 41 male suicides per 100,000. So it is clear that as men age, the prevalence of suicide becomes more frequent.

“The suicide figures for women on the other hand, tended to remain static across the three age subgroups, at around five suicides per 100,000 people.”

The study — parts of which are set to be published soon in International Psychogeriatrics – looked at the factors and/or events behind the suicides and found that there weredifferent issues affecting the risks at varying life stages of older adulthood.

“For example, we found that being widowed, being bereaved or having a circulatory or sensory disorder were more common in people aged over 85 who died by suicide,” says Dr Kolves.

“Whereas having a psychiatric disorder or untreated mental health problems were not such prominent factors for suicide in this age group, when compared with the younger groups.

Older men reluctant to talk

“We can conclude that suicide risks among older adults are not all the same and may have different risk factors depending on the stage of older adulthood, as life events change through the lifespan.

“Older adults’ suicide prevention strategies should not be limited to the care of psychiatric conditions but require truly holistic, comprehensive approaches.

“In particular, between the sexes, it would seem that the existing health strategies appear to work better for older women, with older men still seemingly reluctant to talk about the issues.”

The Queensland Suicide Register is funded by the Queensland Mental Health Commission. This research will be presented at the Asia Pacific International Mental Health Conference 24-26th October in Brisbane.

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