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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
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • 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

FDA Advisory. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines. Instead, a person taking antidepressants should be watched for warning signs of suicide. This is especially important at the beginning of treatment or when doses are changed.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerDavid Messenger, MD
Last RevisedNovember 29, 2010

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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