Despite the superstition that suicide is more typical of young people and is caused by their mental instability, it is scientifically proven that elderly adults are susceptible to it as well. It was established a couple of years ago that the risk of suicide increases with age and is often underestimated, especially for older adults (Schmutte & Wilkinson, 2020). Doctors often do not pay attention to the mental health conditions of elderly people. Hence, in many cases, people who committed suicide did not even know that they had mental health issues. It is necessary to understand that suicide cannot be regarded as a separate issue. It is always a consequence of either mistreating mental disorders or their wrong treatment. Usually, suicide follows a severe form of depression, and a person may not even know that he has it. However, suicide may be the consequence of several problems that people may ignore. It is necessary to understand the causes of the issue in order to prevent it. It is crucial for older people who usually deny mental illnesses.
Suicide in elderly age currently presents a reason for the doctors’ concern in many countries. It is established that older people tend to support stable mental conditions and, in some cases, even improve them. However, the statistics on suicides proves that people of seventy years old and older have the highest rates of suicide (Van Orden & Convell, 2016). In addition, women of seventy years old and older are more susceptible to depression that may result in suicide. However, elderly males are more likely to commit successful suicide (Obuobi-Donkor, Nkire & Agyapong, 2021). Suicide rates among elderly people are incredibly high in the USA, and severe form of depression is the leading cause of suicide. When it comes to elderly patients, the situation is complicated by the fact that the symptoms of depression may be regarded as concerns about aging or signs of other accompanying diseases. It may lead to ineffective and, in some cases, even harmful treatment and prevents the doctor from establishing the right diagnosis.
Though depression may be regarded as the major cause of suicide, there exist other factors that may increase its risks. They contribute to both physical and mental health issues. Since the depression was already mentioned, it seems reasonable to continue with other mental disorders that may end in suicide. The first one is schizophrenia since it is characterized by psychotic behavior that may result in accidental or planned suicide. Then comes anxiety disorders because people who have them are susceptible to constant stress they cannot cope with (Obuobi-Donkor et al., 2021). All these mental health issues increase the probability of suicidal thoughts emerging and may finally lead to a person’s death.
When it comes to the physical health factors that cause suicides, most of them usually concern the incurable diseases. Hence, all types of cancer, especially in the final stages, severe cardiovascular conditions, liver conditions. Malignancies that are characterized by insufferable pains also contribute to this category (Obuobi-Donkor et al., 2021). However, it is worth mentioning that a lot of elderly choose suicide instead of treatment in order not to give themselves unnecessary hope. At the same time, there exists an interesting paradox concerning this issue. In many cases, those who fear that they have cancer die by suicide due to their concerns, though, in reality, they were healthy and could live a long life.
Apart from mental and physical health-related factors that may become the reason for suicide in the elderly, it is necessary to consider one more group. It is called birth order personality characteristics. It is a set of traits and genetic predispositions to the development of particular diseases throughout the course of life. Hence, mental and physical health issues do not emerge separately and are usually the result of a person’s genetics. That is why if one’s relatives had cancer or cardiovascular disease in old age, there exists a high probability that the person will have them too. However, not many doctors can tie the reason for suicide with people’s genetics. It contributes to the fact that causes of suicidal thoughts, especially in the elderly, are yet not studied enough to make proper conclusions that involves imprecision in their prevention (Stanley, Hom, Rogers, Hagan & Joiner Jr, 2016). That is why elderly patients’ suicidal thoughts may be either ignored or misinterpreted by healthcare providers.
Suicide may also be the result of different issues that are not connected with mental or physical health. These factors are called social or economic factors and should also be carefully considered and analyzed in order to help scientists and doctors better understand the motives of those who commit suicide. It is also worth mentioning that socio-economic reasons may, in some cases, cause the development of depression and other mental disorders (Obuobi-Donkor et al., 2021). Generally, these factors include financial problems, unstable relations with family or their total absence, arguments, social isolation, and loneliness (Dzeng & Pantilat, 2019). Psycho-social factors such as disease or death of the spouse or other close family member or friend may cause a depressive episode. The main risk here concerns the fact that elderly people deny mental disorders and refuse to attend a psychologist, which is dangerous. If a health professional does not properly treat a depressive episode, it may develop into a more severe form of depression.
Regarding the statistics of suicides among elderly people, it is necessary to regard gender differences since they are quite significant. Thus, it was established by the scientists that elderly women attempt to commit suicide more often than men. They also have higher risks of depression or anxiety disorder. However, at the same time, males’ death rate concerning suicides in many countries is twice higher than the women’s (Obuobi-Donkor et al., 2021). It happens so because males prefer more radical ways of committing suicide with almost no chance of salvation. In addition, it is harder for men to admit that they have health-related or socio-economic problems and ask for the help of a healthcare professional. When speaking about the average age of suicides among elderly people, it is necessary to point out that it varies from sixty-four to seventy-five years old. Apart from that, lonely people who either do not have spouses and children or do not have any contact with them are more inclined to commit suicide than those who are supported by their family members.
Suicide, in general, is an issue of deep concern for both scientists and healthcare providers because it takes the lives of thousands of people every year. That is why it is essential to consider not only the possible reasons that may lead to it but also the measures and tactics that will help prevent it. When speaking about suicides among the elderly, the first issue to pay attention to should be careful examination and consideration of all the symptoms they have. The doctors also should pay special attention to those that may be signals of depression or other mental disorders. Effective treatment of mental disorders and depression, in particular, may help decrease the number of suicides among elderly patients (Van Orden & Convell, 2016). Scientists consider this tactic to be one of the most effective in suicide prevention.
However, in order to effectively treat depression, it is necessary for the doctors to understand the amount of the risk of its leading to suicide exactly for the elderly patients. That is why the ratio of deaths among the elderly caused by suicides is constantly changing, and it is necessary to detect these changes to develop an effective protective strategy (He, Ouyang, Qui, Li, Li & Xiao, 2021). Some scientists point out the necessity of developing the model of treating chronic diseases, especially for elderly patients, that will help to treat depression as well (Conejero, Olié, Courtet & Calati, 2018). Hence, scientists and doctors do their best to work out the most effective protective measures against elderly people’s suicides since the issue is topical for the global healthcare system.
Taking into consideration all mentioned above, it is possible to conclude that suicide in older adults presents a major problem for healthcare. There exist a lot of reasons for it, but the most common are mental and physical health disorders and chronic diseases. Some people have a genetic predisposition for different illnesses that also may become a cause for further depression and suicide. It was established that men die by suicide more often than women since they choose more radical methods for it. The suicide death ratio remains unreasonably high, so it is necessary to develop prevention and protection measures, especially in treating depression and chronic diseases.
Conejero, I., Olié, E., Courtet, P. & Calati, R. (2018). Suicide in older adults: Current perspectives. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 13, 691-699. Web.
Dzeng, E. & Pantilat, S. Z. (2019). What are the social causes of rational suicide in older adults? Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 66(5), 853-855. Web.
He, J., Ouyang, F., Qiu, D., Li, L., Li, Y. & Xiao, S. (2021). Time trends and predictions of suicide mortality for people aged 70 years and over from 1990 to 2030 based on the global burden of disease study 2017. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12. Web.
Obuobi-Donkor, G., Nkire, N. & Agyapong, V. I. O. (2021). Prevalence of major depressive disorder and correlates of thoughts of death, suicidal behavior, and death by suicide in the geriatric population – a general review of literature. Behavioral Sciences, 11(11), 142. Web.
Schmutte, T. & Wilkinson, S. T. (2020). Suicide in older adults with and without mental illness: Results from the national violent death reporting system, 2003-2016. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 58(4), 584-590. Web.
Stanley, I. H., Hom, M. A., Rogers, M. L., Hagan, C. R. & Joiner Jr, T. E. (2016). Understanding suicide among older adults: a review of psychological and sociological theories of suicide. Aging & Mental Health, 20(2), 113-122. Web.
Van Orden, K. A. & Convell, Y. (2016). Issues in research on aging and suicide. Aging & Mental Health, 20(2), 240-251. Web.