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OBJECTIVE: To determine the psychological characteristics and nature of life problems, including physical illness, in people 60 years and over dying through suicide in the absence of psychiatric disorder. METHODS: Psychological autopsy interviews with relatives and friends for 23 people aged 60 years or over who had died through suicide and did not have a psychiatric disorder at the time of death. RESULTS: Three (13%) of the sample had significant psychiatric symptoms, one had a diagnosis of personality disorder, and ten (43.5%) had significantly abnormal personality traits. Physical illness and recent bereavement were the commonest life problems associated with suicide. Five (21.7%) of the sample were suffering from severe physical illness at the time of death. CONCLUSION: Sub-syndromal psychiatric disorder may be less important than personality factors, physical illness, and recent bereavement as important contributory factors to suicide in older people not suffering from psychiatric illness at the time of death.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Geriatr Psychiatry

Publication Date





363 - 367


Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Bereavement, Comorbidity, England, Female, Humans, Male, Mental Disorders, Middle Aged, Personality Disorders, Risk Factors, Suicide