The frequency of women completing suicide generally declines after the age of 60.1 However, older adults have the highest frequency of completed suicides in the United States . In 2001, 5,393 adults 65 years and older completed suicide, with 85% of them men, and 15% of them women (See figure 1) . Further, older adults encompass 12.4% in the United States population, but account for 16.7% of all completed suicides .
Older adults generally use extremely lethal methods to complete suicide. Firearms are the most commonly used method. Older men use firearms to complete suicide approximately twice as often as older women with 73% for men compared to 34% for women. Additional commonly used methods include hanging and poisoning .
Utah and U.S. Data
Elderly white males have the highest risk of completing suicide with an average of 32 suicides per 100,000 each year . Further, 85% of suicides among older adults are completed by men, which is 5.5 times greater than suicides completed by elderly women . Comparably, in Utah men aged 55 and older were seven times more likely to complete suicide than women .
In 2003, the suicide rate in Utah for persons aged 55 and older was approximately 20.1 per 100,000 and for those 85 and older the rate was 22.7 per 100,000. Further, across all age groups, Utah’s suicide rate is the tenth highest in the nation .
Common risk factors that increase the likelihood than an older adult will complete suicide include social isolation, recent death of a loved one, serious physical illness, perception of poor health, and changes in social roles . Further, common protective factors that mitigate the possibility of suicide among the elderly include family and community support, clinical treatment for mental and physical health, religious and cultural beliefs that reject suicide, and skills in problem solving and conflict resolution .
The psychological and emotional consequences of depression can be extremely damaging and potentially life threatening to the older women and men who suffer from it. One of the primary causes of suicide among older adults is depression that goes undiagnosed and/or without treatment. Persons diagnosed with a major depressive disorder are 50% more likely to complete suicide than the general population .
Additionally, approximately 20% of older adults that complete suicide had an appointment with a physician within the prior 24 hours of the incident, 41% had a visit within the last week, and 75% within the last month (See figure 2) .
If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For immediate help dial 9-1-1.
- American Association of Suicidology. Elderly Suicide: Factsheet. Available online at http://www.suicidology.org/associations/1045/files/Elderly.pdf. Accessed November 23, 2006.
- Utah Department of Health: Aging and Health in Utah Implications for Public Health. Available online at http://health.utah.gov/bhp/Aging_Report_April05.pdf. Accessed November 30, 2006.
- National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Suicide: Fact Sheet Available online at http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/suifacts.htm. Accessed December 2, 2006.
- Institute on Aging: Suicide and the Elderly. Available online at http://www.gioa.org/programs/cesp/sfacts.html. Accessed November 14, 2006.
- American Psychological Association Online: Facts about Suicide in Older Adults. Available online at http://www.apa.org/ppo/issues/oldersuicidefact.html. Accessed December 31, 2006.