Depression and Suicide Among The Elderly


  • Study on depression and suicide deaths among the elderly.


  • Analysis in this study will center on the relation between depression and suicide among the elderly.


  • The study has revealed that suicidal tendencies caused by depression among the elderly can be reduced.




Depression and suicidal tendencies among the elderly were less widespread in earlier years, but nowadays it is a major concern especially in the United States. In recent times, the elderly group comprising people above age 65 have more to worry about as compared to the 1980’s and 90’s. This can be attributed to the deplorable economy, concerns about medical insurance and lost retirement benefits. These factors depress the elderly and cause suicidal thoughts as the elderly get the feeling of being a burden to the society.

United States citizens above the age of sixty five consist of only twelve percent of the total population. In 2015, out of 100,000 deaths of elderly people 14.9 percent were suicide cases (NIMH, 2017). This is quite a high figure considering that out of the 100,000 deaths in other age groups, only 10.9 percent were as a result of suicide. Depression is the main cause of suicide in all ages however, social neglect among the elderly is a key aspect in suicide. Studies also indicate that elderly men are more neglected than women (NIMH, 2017).


Analysis in this study will centre on the relation between depression and suicide among the elderly, and consider factors like: the role of depression in suicide, treatment for depression among the elderly, and what efforts are being done to reduce the trend.

Role of depression in suicide

Depression is among the most unrecognizable illness in the world. Studies indicate that 75 percent of suicide deaths were a result undetected depression. These are people who visited physicians and if improved diagnosis methods were applied, the deaths might have been averted. Approximated figures of 5 million people who suffer from depression have symptoms which are not easy to detect and they end up not meeting the diagnosis criteria of depression (NIMH, 2017). When other illnesses crop up in elderly people, depression increases especially for those under home health care or those hospitalized.

It is a universal fallacy that depression is part of aging. Even though the elderly exhibit constant mood swings and are more vulnerable when faced with situations like grief, constant depression that affects one’s ability to function should not be downplayed. If depression is not treated, it aggravates the other illnesses.

Treatment for depression among the elderly

Antidepressant medication is an effective way of treating depression. Drugs like SSRIs i.e. selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors affect neurotransmitters in the brain and ease depression (Hybels, 2003). The SSRIs are known to have the least side effects although they react differently with different people, and they should only be used if prescribed. It also reacts under different timeframes depending on each patient. It might take eight weeks for some people, and four weeks for some.

After completion of a dose, it is advisable to consult a doctor and get further prescription. The importance of continuing with this medication is to ensure there is no relapse. Studies have revealed that 60 percent of elderly patients, who prolonged their medication for more than two years, did not relapse (Hybels, 2003).

Psychotherapy is also effective but numerous research findings indicate that if it is combined with antidepressant medication, it yields the most effective result. A study of Elderly people with other physical ailments and memory loss who were depressed showed that 80 percent recovered after combining the two as opposed to those who used either antidepressants or psychotherapy only (Alexopoulos, 2000).

Racial comparison

Study was conducted to analyze if some races are at more risk to contemplate suicide as a result of depression. Depression leading to suicide is not caused by one’s race but it is important to consider prevalence rates in different races. In every 100,000 deaths, Hispanics were 7.9 percent, Asian and Pacific Islanders were 10.6 percent, Whites were 15.8 percent, African Americans were 5 percent, and the remaining percentage was in no specific racial group (Conwell, 2016).   

Measures to reduce the trend

A program was designed by researchers under National Institute of Mental Health to enable healthcare facilities to enhance detection and treatment of suicidal symptoms and depression. The program has proved to be useful and suicidal tendencies are on the decline and more depression cases are easily recognized (NIMH, 2017).

Other studies spearheaded by National Institute of Mental Health that are ongoing and are proving to be effective include: Physical function and depression, improved observation techniques and treatment, and management services for depression.


The study has revealed that suicidal tendencies caused by depression among the elderly mainly results from a perception of being a burden. The feeling of being a burden for a person who has been working for the better part of their life, and at some point were bread winners creates depression. It is also a common belief among the elderly that death is nearer and it is brings about relief (Conwell and Brent, 1995).

These common thoughts among the elderly increase cases of suicide at rates higher than any other age group. The reality is that if stringent measures are not put in place the figures will keep raising. It is not only health experts and people caring for the elderly who should be sensitized on this issue. The general population should be enlightened on how to handle the elderly and especially how to detect symptoms of depression. Any person with suicidal thoughts should be referred to a healthcare professional without delay.  


Alexopoulos GS. (2000). Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.

Conwell Y, B. D. (1995). Suicide and aging. I: patterns of psychiatric diagnosis. International Psychogeriatrics, 145-164.

Conwell, Y. (2001). Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior. Suicide in later life: a review and recommendations for prevention, 32-47.

Hybels CF, B. D. (2003). Epidemiology of late-life mental disorders. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 663-696.

NIMH. (2017, April 27). Older Adults: Depression and Suicide Facts (Fact Sheet). Transforming the Understanding and Treatment of Mental Health Through Research , pp. 4-10.  Available from:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *