Risk factors for late-life suicide: A prospective, community-based study

Carolyn L. Turvey, Yeates Conwell, Michael P. Jones, Caroline Phillips, Eleanor Simonsick, Jane L. Pearson, Robert Wallace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the fact that people age 65 and older have the highest rates of suicide of any age-group, late-life suicide has a low prevalence, making it difficult to conduct prospective studies. The authors examined risk factors for late-life suicide on the basis of general information collected directly from older subjects participating in a community-based prospective study of aging, the Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly. Demographic variables, presence of a relative or friend to confide in, alcohol use, and sleep quality were assessed at baseline interview. Baseline and follow-up data were used to determine physical, cognitive, and affective functioning, as well as medical status. Of 14,456 people, 21 committed suicide over the 10-year observation period. Depressive symptoms, perceived health status, sleep quality, and absence of a relative or friend to confide in predicted late-life suicide. Suicide victims did not have greater alcohol use and did not report more medical illness or physical impairment. This study provided additional information about the context of late-life depression that also contributes to suicidal behavior: poor perceived health, poor sleep quality, and limited presence of a relative or friend to confide in.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-406
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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