Suicide Rates in the Elderly
Deana M. Newman, M.A., C.C.P.
Reprinted courtesy of The New Citizens Press www.tncp.net
Our present day society is one in need of “right-now” information, continuously on-the-go, with most having only minimal time to enjoy a home cooked meal with loved ones and barely enough time to acquire adequate sleep as a result of unfinished projects. In the midst of the every day hustle and bustle, it is easy to overlook additional matters of importance such as the emotional needs of senior citizens.
During the 20th century, the United States population of citizens over the age of 65 years has tripled. It is also estimated that by the year 2030, one out of five Americans will be seniors. It is believed that with the continuous evolution of technology, life expectancy will increase as well.
Since the implementation of Social Security and Medicare in the 1960’s, the percentage of seniors with incomes below federal poverty levels has decreased. However, this improvement in economic status is not evenly distributed. According to the American Geriatric Society, current poverty rates are still highest among African-American and Hispanic-American senior citizens.
In addition to poverty, a number of seniors are faced with disability, chronic conditions, living alone, high prescription drug costs, and depression. Even worse, this fragile population has been categorized as the nation’s highest risk group for suicide. Unfortunately, very few suicide prevention programs have been designed with the elderly in mind.
The National Institute of Mental Health reported the most recent U. S. suicide rate within the general population as 10.9 per 100,000, while the rate of those aged 65 years and older is 14.3 per 100,000.
Studies have shown the risk of depression is significantly increased when other illnesses are present and when every day function is limited. This often causes extreme distress and frustration. While occasional feelings of sadness, moodiness and grief are normal expressions of emotion, persistent depression is abnormal and should be treated immediately with psychotherapy and/or prescribed medications.
Though an increase in advocacy, resources, and policy implementation could decrease the alarming suicide rate of seniors, friends and family must also “tune-in” to their needs with patience and a continuous listening ear.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). For additional information on aging issues including locating eldercare, contact the Administration on Aging at 1-202-619-0724 or 1-800-677-1116.
Deana M. Newman is a freelance health and wellness writer based in Lansing, Michigan. She is a Certified Cardiovascular Perfusionist who holds a Master of Arts in Health Communication from Michigan State University and is actively involved in educating minority populations on various health awareness topics.