Warning Signs of Suicide in Older Adults

Topic Overview

Suicide rates increase with age and are highest among white men age 65 and older. Divorced and widowed men in this age group have the highest suicide rates, and their most common method of suicide is firearms.

The following warning signs may be present in older adults who have a high risk for suicide:

  • Depression. Older adults have higher rates of depression than the general population.
  • Other mental health problem, such as severe anxiety, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), or schizophrenia
  • Substance use disorder
  • Being alone for long periods of time (social isolation)
  • Being preoccupied with death in conversations
  • The diagnosis of a serious physical illness
  • Recent life change, such as the death or chronic illness of a spouse or child, retirement, or financial problems
  • Physical disabilities

Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued advisories on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.

Take any mention of suicide seriously. If someone you know is threatening suicide, get help right away. To learn more, see Suicidal Thoughts or Threats.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: May 28, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
David Messenger MD
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health

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