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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

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.

Take any mention of suicide seriously. If someone you know is threatening to commit suicide, get help right away. To learn more, see Suicidal Thoughts or Threats.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: October 17, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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