Jun 06, 2002
By Steven Reinberg
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Older men and women who have a severe physical illness are at an increased risk for suicide, Swedish researchers report in the June 8th issue of the British Medical Journal.
"What is new in this study is that we have looked at suicide victims and compared them with a population control group, which allows us to look at the size of the risk associated with different types of illness," Dr. Margda Waern from Gothenberg University, told Reuters Health.
Dr. Waern and colleagues collected data on 46 men and 39 women, 65 years of age and older, who had committed suicide and had undergone necropsy. They compared these individuals with a cohort of age-matched living controls (84 men and 69 women).
The researchers found that visual impairment, neurological disorders and malignant disease were linked to an increased risk for suicide (odds ratio 7.0, 3.8 and 3.4 respectively).
In multivariate analysis, a serious physical illness from any cause increased the suicide risk fourfold. When the data were analyzed by sex, suicide in men was significantly associated with serious physical illness and a high burden of physical illness (odds ratio 4.2 and 2.8 respectively).
However, this significant association was not seen among women. "This could be because there were fewer women in the study," Dr. Waern said. "But, I feel that serious illness was more difficult for men to tolerate than it was for women," she added.
Dr. Waern commented, "It is important that elderly patients be evaluated for depression, because we found that the majority of patients in the study, who had a serious physical illness, also had depression."
© 2002 Reuters Ltd