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Public EnemiesHarvey Chan

Public Enemies (continued)

Most Determined

Suicide/Oldest Old

Worldwide, the highest suicide rates occur among those over the age of 75—one of the fastest growing age groups.

Having examined suicide trends among the old (65 to 79 years) and the oldest old (80-plus years), Annette Erlangsen PhD, adjunct assistant professor, Mental Health, says that certain life events, such as illness or losing a partner, are associated with increased suicide risk. In fact, the oldest-old men who had been hospitalized had the highest suicide rate among the elderly. Her research suggests that hospital staff could help identify those at risk.


Using national data from Denmark, Erlangsen discovered that about half of the oldest old who commit suicide are not receiving antidepressant medication though it might be indicated.


The number of suicides among the oldest old is likely to increase as more people live longer. New prevention efforts need to address the fact that suicide among the oldest old is rarely impulsive. In fact, more than half of older adults who die by suicide have mentioned their plans to others.

Final Take

“It’s very peculiar that people who are approaching the natural ends of their lifespans are very carefully and determinedly planning to take their own lives. We need to address the issues that make life no longer worth living."



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