Suicide among Elderly: The Influence of Loss of Partner and Psychiatric Illness

Annette Erlangsen, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

The highest suicide rates are found among the elderly in many countries. An increasing number of elderly means a future rise of suicides is expected. Danish register data provide unique possibilities to study risk factors using the entire population as reference group. This paper analyzes how loss of partner and psychiatric illness affect the risk of committing suicide among elderly. Data come from the entire Danish population aged 50 or above is analyzed during 1994-97 (N=1,894,810: 876,005 males and 1,018,805 females). Individual-level data containing demographic and psychiatric variables are used. The effect of loss of partner and onset of psychiatric illness as well as interaction effects are analyzed. Preliminary results show an increased suicide risk for widowed especially during the first year of widowhood. Finally, we consider prior evidence - that suggests that psychiatric disease influences the risk of committing suicide - in light of our data.

Presented in Session 23: Health, Well-being and Aging