It is estimated that by the year 2050, 1 in 5 individuals will be 65 years or older. In addition to the growing number of seniors in North America, the rate of suicide has also risen considerably, particularly in this patient population. As such, there is a need to identify clinically meaningful predictors of suicide and better understand the settings in which suicidal behavior takes place as a means of creating ‘points of engagement’ for risk reduction. In this cross-sectional study, researchers analyzed data from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), to estimate the number of suicides associated with residential long-term care (LTC) in adults age 55 years and older. Among 47,759 deaths in individuals age 55 years and older (median age 64 years, 77.6% male), 1073 suicides or undetermined deaths were associated with LTC. Specifically, this included 428 suicide deaths among older adults living in an LTC facility, 449 suicide deaths among older adults transitioning into or out of LTC, and160 suicide deaths otherwise associated with LTC. Researchers found that deaths that occurred in LTC were more likely to be among women. In addition, decedents in undergoing transition either in or out of LTC were more likely to have endorsed suicidal ideation and more likely to have a physical health issue cited as a contributing to this, relative to those living in LTC. Individuals whose death was otherwise associated with LTC were also more likely to be in a relationship, endorse depressed mood, and have had a recent crisis as a contributing factor. There was no significant change in the number of suicides associated with LTC over time (p=0.85). This study therefore shows that seniors transitioning into or out of LTC may represent a vulnerable patient population with respect to suicide risk. This has important implications as more can be done to support the mental health of seniors living in LTC.
Click to read the study in JAMA Network Open
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