Advertisement

European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 131–140 | Cite as

Suicide among older people in relation to their subjective and objective well-being in different European regions

  • Jing WuEmail author
  • Airi Värnik
  • Liina-Mai Tooding
  • Peeter Värnik
  • Kairi Kasearu
Original Investigation

Abstract

The aim of this study was to establish how different types of welfare states shape the context of the everyday life of older people by influencing their subjective well-being, which in turn might manifest itself in suicide rates. Twenty-two European countries studied were divided into Continental, Nordic, Island, Southern, and post-socialist countries, which were subdivided into Baltic, Slavic, and Central-Eastern groups based on their socio-political and welfare organization. Suicide rates, subjective well-being data, and objective well-being data were used as parameters of different welfare states and obtained from the World Health Organization European Mortality Database, European Social Survey, and Eurostat Database. This study revealed that the suicide rates of older people were the highest in the Baltic countries, while in the Island group, the suicide rate was the lowest. The suicide rate ratios between the age groups 65+ and 0–64 were above 1 (from 1.2 to 2.5), except for the group of the Island countries with a suicide rate ratio of 0.8. Among subjective well-being indicators, relatively high levels of life satisfaction and happiness were revealed in Continental, Nordic, and Island countries. Objective well-being indicators like old age pension, expenditure on old age, and social protection benefits in GDP were the highest in the Continental countries. The expected inverse relationship between subjective well-being indicators and suicide rates among older people was found across the 22 countries. We conclude that welfare states shape the context and exert influence on subjective well-being, and thus may lead to variations in risk of suicide at the individual level.

Keywords

Suicide of older people Subjective well-being Objective well-being European welfare regimes European Social Survey Eurostat 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are especially grateful to the editor-in-chief for providing invaluable suggestions.

Conflict of interest

None.

References

  1. Aidukaite J (2004) The emergence of the post-socialist welfare state—the case of the baltic states: Estonia Latvia and Lithuania. Dissertation: Södertörn University CollegeGoogle Scholar
  2. Albert I, Labs K, Trommsdorff G (2010) Are older adult German women satisfied with their lives? On the role of life domains, partnership status, and self-construal. GeroPsych 23(1):39–49Google Scholar
  3. Bodner E, Cohen-Fridel S (2010) Relations between attachment styles, ageism and quality of life in late life. Int Psychogeriatr 22(8):1353–1361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bonnewyn A, Shah A, Demyttenaere K (2009) Suicidality and suicide in older people. Rev Clin Gerontol 19:271–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bonoli G, Palier B (2001) How do welfare states change? Institutions and their impact on the politics of welfare state reform in Western Europe. In: Leibfried S (ed) Welfare state futures. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 57–76Google Scholar
  6. Botev N (2012) Population ageing in Central and Eastern Europe and its demographic and social context. Eur J Ageing 9(1):69–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cerami A (2010) The politics of social security reforms in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. In: Palier B (ed) A long goodbye to Bismarck? The politics of welfare reforms in Continental Europe. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, pp 233–254Google Scholar
  8. Conwell Y (2009) Suicide prevention in later life: A glass half full, or half empty? Am J Psychiatry 166(8):845–848CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cozman D (2006) Synopsis of suicidology. Science Book Publishing House, Cluj-NapocaGoogle Scholar
  10. Cozman D (2009) Suicide prevention in Romania. In: Wasserman D, Wasserman C (eds) Oxford textbook of suicidology and suicide prevention. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 807–809Google Scholar
  11. De Leo D (1998) Is suicide prediction in old age really easier? Crisis 19(2):60–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. De Leo D (1999) Cultural issues in suicide and old age. Crisis 20(2):53–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. De Leo D, Spathonis K (2003) Culture and suicide in late life. Psychiatric Times 20:14–17Google Scholar
  14. De Leo D, Krysinska K, Bertolote JM, Fleischman A, Wasserman D (2009) Suicidal behaviors on all the continents among the elderly. In: Wasserman D, Wasserman C (eds) Oxford textbook of suicidology and suicide prevention. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 693–701Google Scholar
  15. De Mendonca Lima CA, Bertolote JM, Simeone I, Camus V (2001) Suicide in old age: Swiss perspectives. In: De Leo D (ed) Suicide and euthanasia in older adults: a transcultural journey. Hogrefe & Huber, Göttingen, pp 57–76Google Scholar
  16. Diener E (1984) Subjective well-being. Psychol Bull 95(3):542–575CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Diener E, Suh EM, Lucas RE, Smith HL (1999) Subjective well-being: three decades of progress. Psychol Bull 125:276–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Durkheim E (1897–1951) Suicide: a study in sociology. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Ervasti H, Goul Andersen J, Friberg T, Ringdal K (2012) The future of the welfare state. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, CheltenhamCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Esping-Andersen G (1990) The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Polity Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  21. Esping-Andersen G (1999) Social foundations of post-industrial economies. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Esping-Andersen G (2002) Towards the good society, once again? In: Esping-Andersen G, Gallie D, Hemerijck A, Myles J (eds) Why we need a new welfare state?. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Esping-Andersen G (2010) Prologue: What does it mean to break with Bismarck? In: Palier B (ed) A long goodbye to Bismarck? The politics of welfare reforms in Continental Europe. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, pp 11–18Google Scholar
  24. European Social Survey (2011) http://www.europeansocialsurvey.org/. Accessed Feb 2011
  25. Eurostat (2011) Eurostat methodologies and working papers: the European system of integrated social protection statistics manual. Publications Office of the European Union, LuxembourgGoogle Scholar
  26. Fässberg MM, van Orden KA, Duberstein P, Erlangsen A, Lapierre S, Bodner E, Canetto SS, De Leo D, Szanto K, Waern M (2012) A systematic review of social factors and suicidal behavior in older adulthood. Int J Environ Res Public Health 9:722–745CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ferrera M (1996) The Southern model of wlefare in social Europe. J Eur Soc Policy 6(1):17–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ferrera M, Hemerijck A, Rhodes M (2001) Recasting European welfare states for the 21st century. In: Leibfried S (ed) Welfare state futures. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 151–170Google Scholar
  29. Flavin P, Radcliff B (2009) Public policies and suicide rates in the American states. Soc Indic Res 90(2):195–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gailiene D (2004) Suicide in Lithuania during the years of 1990–2002. Arch Suicide Res 8(4):389–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Grad OT, Kogoj A, Trontelj J (2001) Elderly suicide in Slovenia. In: De Leo D (ed) Suicide and euthanasia in older adults: a transcultural journey. Hogrefe & Huber, Göttingen, pp 77–88Google Scholar
  32. Helliwell JF, Putnam RD (2005) The social context of wellbeing. In: Huppert FA, Baylis N, Keverne B (eds) The science of wellbeing. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 435–459Google Scholar
  33. Kahneman D, Krueger AB (2006) Developments in the measurement of subjective well-being. J Econ Perspect 20:3–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kjolseth I, Ekeberg O, Steihaug S (2009) “Why do they become vulnerable when faced with the challenges of old age?”: Elderly people who committed suicide, described by those who knew them. Int Psychogeriatr 21:903–912CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kuhnle S (2001) The Nordic welfare state in a European context: dealing with new economic and ideological challenges in the 1990s. In: Leibfried S (ed) Welfare state futures. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 103–122Google Scholar
  36. McIntosh JL, Santos JF, Hubbard RW, Overholser JC (1994) Elder suicide: research, theory and treatment. American Psychological Association, Washington DCCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nelson TD (2004) Ageism: stereotyping and prejudice against older persons. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  38. Nelson TD (2005) Ageism: prejudice against our feared future self. J Soc Issues 61(2):207–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. O’Connell H, Chin AV, Cunningham C, Lawlor BA (2004) Recent developments: suicide in older people. BMJ 329(7471):895–899CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. OECD (2002) Gross domestic product (GDP). http://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail.asp?ID=1163. Accessed 01 July 2002
  41. Office for national statistics measuring national well-being debate website (2011) http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110422103457/well-being.dxwconsult.com/2011/02/24/objective-vs-subjective-well-being/. Accessed 24 Feb 2011
  42. Ogg J (2005) Social exclusion and insecurity among older Europeans: the influence of welfare regimes. Ageing Soc 25:69–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Palier B (2010) Ordering change: understanding the ‘Bismarckian’ welfare reform trajectory. In: Palier B (ed) A long goodbye to Bismarck? The politics of welfare reforms in Continental Europe. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, pp 19–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Palmore EB (1999) Ageism: negative and positive. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  45. Phillips J, Ajrouch K, Hillcoat-Nalletamby S (2010) key concepts in social gerontology. SAGE, LondonGoogle Scholar
  46. Rubenowitz E, Waern M, Wilhelmson K, Allebeck P (2001) Life events and psychosocial factors in elderly suicides-A case-control study. Psychol Med 31:1193–1202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Schwarz B, Albert I, Trommsdorff G, Zheng G, Shi SH, Nelwan PR (2010) Intergenerational support and life satisfaction: a comparison of Chinese, Indonesian, and German elderly mothers. J Cross Cult Psychol 41(5–6):706–722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Shah A (2008) A cross-national study of the relationship between elderly suicide rates and urbaninzation. Suicide Life Threat Behav 38(6):714–719CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Shah A (2009) The relationship between elderly suicide rates and the human development index: a cross-national study of secondary data from the World Health Organization and the United Nations. Int Psychogeriatr 21(1):69–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Shah A, Bhat R, Mackenzie S, Koen C (2008a) A cross-national study of the relationship between elderly suicide rates and life expectancy and markers of socioeconomic status and health care. Int Psychogeriatr 20(2):347–360Google Scholar
  51. Shah A, Padayatchi M, Das K (2008b) The relationship between elderly suicide rates and elderly dependency ratios: a cross-national study using data from the WHO data bank. Int Psychogeriatr 20(3):596–604Google Scholar
  52. Skrabski A, Kopp M, Kawachi I (2003) Social capital in a changing society: cross sectional associations with middle aged female and male mortality rates. J Epidemiol Community Health 57(2):114–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Skrabski A, Kopp M, Rozsa S, Rethelyi J, Rahe RH (2005) Life meaning: an important correlate of health in the Hungarian population. Int J Behav Med 12(2):78–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Szalai J (1998) Poverty and social policy in Hungary in the, 1990s. In: Festschrift for ivan szelenyi at 60 years. Rutgers Institute for Hungarian Studies, BudapestGoogle Scholar
  55. Tesch-Römer C, Kondratowitz HJv (2006) Comparative ageing research: a flourishing field in need of theoretical cultivation. Eur J Ageing 3:155–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Värnik A, Mokhovikov A (2009) Suicide during transition in the former Soviet Republics. In: Wasserman D, Wasserman C (eds) Oxford textbook of suicidology and suicide prevention. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 191–199Google Scholar
  57. Waern M, Rubenowitz E, Wilhelmson K (2003) Predictors of suicide in the old elderly. Gerontology 49:328–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wasserman D (1999–2000) Depression, a common illness. Symptoms, causes and treatment options. Hans Reitzels Förlag, Copenhagen (in Danish) and atur och Kultur, Stockholm, Sweden (in Swedish)Google Scholar
  59. Wasserman D, Ringskog S (2001) Suicide among the elderly in Sweden. In: De Leo D (ed) Suicide and euthanasia in older adults: a transcultural journey. Hogrefe & Huber, Göttingen, pp 37–46Google Scholar
  60. Wiktorsson S, Runeson B, Skoog I, Ostling S, Waern M (2010) Attempted suicide in the elderly: characteristics of suicide attempters 70 years and older and a general population comparison group. Am J Geriatri Psychiatry 18:57–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. World Health Organization (2013) Definition of an older or elderly person. http://www.who.int/healthinfo/survey/ageingdefnolder/en/
  62. World Health Organization European Mortality Database (2012) http://data.euro.who.int/hfamdb/. Accessed July 2012
  63. Yur’yev A (2012) Dimension-specific impact of social exclusion on suicide mortality in Europe. Dissertation: Tallinn UniversityGoogle Scholar
  64. Yur’yev A, Leppik L, Tooding LM, Sisask M, Värnik P, Wu J, Värnik A (2010) Social inclusion affects elderly suicide mortality. Int Psychogeriatr 22(8):1337–1343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Yur’yev A, Värnik A, Värnik P, Sisask M, Leppik L (2012) Role of social welfare in European suicide prevention. Int J Soc Welf 21:26–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jing Wu
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Airi Värnik
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Liina-Mai Tooding
    • 3
  • Peeter Värnik
    • 1
    • 4
  • Kairi Kasearu
    • 3
  1. 1.Estonian-Swedish Mental Health and Suicidology InstituteTallinnEstonia
  2. 2.Institute of Social WorkTallinn UniversityTallinnEstonia
  3. 3.Institute of Sociology and Social PolicyUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia
  4. 4.The Estonian Institute for Population StudiesTallinn UniversityTallinnEstonia

Personalised recommendations