MPIDR Working Paper

Differences in suicide between the old and the oldest old

Erlangsen, A., Bille-Brahe, U., Jeune, B.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2002-030, 23 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (July 2002)
Revised September 2002. Published in: Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 2003; 58: 314-322
Open Access


Objectives. The purpose of our study was to examine the differences in trends of suicide mortality between the old aged 65-79 years and the oldest old aged 80 years or above. Methods. All persons aged 50 or above who committed suicide in Denmark during 1972-1997 were included. Suicide rates were analysed by sex, age, civil status and methods. A Lexis diagram was applied to study age, period, and cohort effects.
Results. In all, 17,328 (10,220 men and 7,108 women) committed suicide. The highest suicide rate was found among the oldest old men, and since the mid-1990’s, also for women. Marriage has a preventive effect on suicide, however this effect decreases with increasing age. With increasing age, more determined suicide methods are used.
Discussion. A distinct difference in the suicide mortality of the old and the oldest old was found. Suicides among the old have more in common with the suicide patterns of the middle-aged than with the oldest old. Oldest old committing suicide, have a high suicide intent.
Keywords: aged, old age, suicide
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