Suicides in Late Life


Suicide in late life is an enormous public health problem that will likely increase in severity as adults of the baby boom generation age. Data from psychological autopsy studies supplemented with recent studies of suicidal ideation and attempts point to a consistent set of risk factors for the spectrum of suicidal behaviors in late life (suicide ideation, attempts, and deaths). Clinicians should be vigilant for psychiatric illness (especially depression), physical illness, pain, functional impairment, and social disconnectedness. Recent advances in late-life suicide prevention have in common collaborative, multifaceted intervention designs. We suggest that one mechanism shared by all preventive interventions shown to reduce the incidence of late-life suicide is the promotion of connectedness. For the clinician working with older adults, our recommendation is to not only consider risk factors, such as depression, and implement appropriate treatments but to enhance social connectedness as well.

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This work was supported in part by grant no. T32MH20061 from the National Institute of Mental Health.


No potential conflicts of interest relevant to this article were reported.

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Correspondence to Yeates Conwell.

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Van Orden, K., Conwell, Y. Suicides in Late Life. Curr Psychiatry Rep 13, 234–241 (2011).

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  • Suicide
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Older adult
  • Aged
  • Elderly
  • Prevention