A prevalence study of suicide ideation among older adults in Hong Kong SAR

Paul S F Yip, Iris Chi, Helen Chiu, Kwan Chi Wai, Yeates Conwell, Eric Caine
International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 2003, 18 (11): 1056-62

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this paper is to ascertain estimates of the prevalence, and associated risk factors for, suicidal ideation among community-dwelling older adults in Hong Kong.

METHOD: The study was conducted as part of the General Household Survey (GHS), using face to face interviews of ethnic Chinese people aged 60 or above living in the community. Elders living in institutions or elderly homes were excluded from the study.

RESULTS: Six percent of the sample was found to have ever had suicide ideation. The results showed that poor physical health, including poor vision, hearing problems, and a greater number of diseases; and poor mental health, especially in the form of depression, are predictors of suicidal ideation in the elderly population. Also, statistical analysis by linking individual factors to depression showed that financial and relationship problems are significant risk factors as well. Older adults who engaged in active coping, that is, those who actively seek to manage or control the negative events in their lives, fare better with lower levels of suicidal ideation than those who use passive coping styles.

CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of suicidal ideation is similar among elders in Hong Kong and western countries. Factors that contribute to risk for suicidal ideation span physical and mental health, social, and psychological domains. Although the association of suicidal ideation to self-destructive acts remains to be determined, these findings indicate a variety of potential foci for late life suicide prevention efforts.

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