International Psychogeriatrics

International Perspectives

Suicide in the Elderly: The United Kingdom Perspective

Michael S. Dennis a1 and James Lindesay a1
a1 Division of Psychiatry for the Elderly, Leicester General Hospital, Leicester, United Kingdom.

Article author query
dennis m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
lindesay j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


This article reviews British government policies regarding the reduction of elderly suicide. Epidemiologic trends in elderly suicide indicate males aged 75 and older have the highest rates, with frequent methods being hanging and overdose. In contrast, rates among elderly who have immigrated from the Indian subcontinent in the past 10 to 30 years are significantly lower. Characteristics of elderly suicides and deliberate self-harm in the United Kingdom suggest that depression, social isolation and loss, and physical illness all are risk factors. Because most elderly suicides have contact with a primary healthcare provider in the month prior to the suicide, an effort to educate general practitioners and psychiatrists about treatable depression in the elderly is being made. Other policies also are being implemented: reduction of means of suicide, better linkage among services for the elderly for enhanced appropriate care, and clinical audits of suicide. Research associated with these policy efforts may further elucidate clinically relevant risk factors.