Older Adults

Suicide is an important problem among older adults. Suicide rates are particularly high among older men, with men ages 85 and older having the highest rate of any group in the country.1 Suicide attempts by older adults are much more likely to result in death than among younger persons. Reasons include:

  • Older adults plan more carefully and use more deadly methods.
  • Older adults are less likely to be discovered and rescued.
  • The physical frailty of older adults means they are less likely to recover from an attempt. 

Risk and Protective Factors

Suicide prevention efforts seek to reduce risk factors for suicide and strengthen the factors that protect individuals from suicide. Here are a few examples:

Risk factors

  • Depression and other mental health problems
  • Substance use problems (including prescription medications)
  • Physical illness, disability, and pain
  • Social isolation

Protective factors

  • Care for mental and physical health problems
  • Social connectedness
  • Skills in coping and adapting to change

Reference

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Fatal injury reports, national and regional, 1999–2014. Retrieved from http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate10_us.html

    Learn More

    • See the Recommended Resources below selected by SPRC personnel.
    • See All Resources Related to Older Adults for a full list of materials, programs, trainings, and other information available from SPRC. Use the filters on the left to narrow your results.
    • For more on other groups and settings, see our Populations and Settings pages.
    Recommended Resources
    This toolkit provides ideas for integrating suicide prevention into the work of senior centers.
    This toolkit contains resources to help staff in senior living communities promote emotional health and prevent suicide among their residents.
    This sheet provides information to help professionals in senior living communities recognize and respond to suicide risk.
    This issue brief is intended to help health care and social service organizations develop strategies to prevent suicide in older adults.
    In this guest post of the Director’s Corner, Dr. Bradley Karlin discusses risk factors for suicide among older adults and promising treatment options.
    This section of the NCOA center’s website offers resources on behavioral health for older adults.