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Assessing the role of physical illness in young old and older old suicide attempters

Journal article
Authors Stefan Wiktorsson
Anne Ingeborg Berg
Katarina Wilhelmson
Madeleine Mellqvist Fässberg
K. Van Orden
P. Duberstein
Margda Waern
Published in International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Volume 31
Issue 7
Pages 771-774
ISSN 0885-6230
Publication year 2016
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Department of Psychology
Pages 771-774
Language en
Keywords Attributions , Physical illness , Suicide attempt
Subject categories Clinical Medicine


© 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Objectives: Attributions for attempting suicide were explored in older adults with and without serious physical illness. Methods: An open-ended question was used to explore attributions for attempting suicide in 101 hospitalized persons aged 70+. Serious physical illness was defined as a score of 3 or 4 on any of the 13 non-psychiatric organ categories in the Cumulative Illness Rating Scale for Geriatrics. Results: Roughly one-third of hospitalized persons with (22/62) and without (12/39) serious physical illness attributed the suicide attempt to somatic distress. Among 70- to 79-year-olds, seriously physically ill patients were more likely than healthier patients to attribute their attempt to psychological pain (84% vs. 48%, p=0.013). There were no significant differences in attributions in persons with and without serious health problems in the 80+ group. Conclusions: The processes by which physical illness confers risk for attempted suicide in older adulthood may be age dependent. Interventions are needed to mitigate psychological pain in physically ill older patients, especially those in their seventies. Research is needed to understand how the psychological processes that influence the desire for suicide change across older adulthood.

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