A systematic review of social factors and suicidal behavior in older adulthood

Madeleine Mellqvist Fässberg, Kimberly A. van Orden, Paul Duberstein, Annette Erlangsen, Sylvie Lapierre, Ehud Bodner, Silvia Sara Canetto, Diego de Leo, Katalin Szanto, Margda Waern

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

243 Scopus citations


Suicide in later life is a global public health problem. The aim of this review was to conduct a systematic analysis of studies with comparison groups that examined the associations between social factors and suicidal behavior (including ideation, non-fatal suicidal behavior, or deaths) among individuals aged 65 and older. Our search identified only 16 articles (across 14 independent samples) that met inclusion criteria. The limited number of studies points to the need for further research. Included studies were conducted in Canada (n = 2), Germany (n = 1), Hong Kong (n = 1), Japan (n = 1), Singapore (n = 1), Sweden (n = 2), Taiwan (n = 1), the U.K. (n = 2), and the U.S. (n = 3). The majority of the social factors examined in this review can be conceptualized as indices of positive social connectedness-the degree of positive involvement with family, friends, and social groups. Findings indicated that at least in industrialized countries, limited social connectedness is associated with suicidal ideation, non-fatal suicidal behavior, and suicide in later life. Primary prevention programs designed to enhance social connections as well as a sense of community could potentially decrease suicide risk, especially among men.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)722-745
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Death wishes
  • Non-fatal suicidal behavior
  • Older adults
  • Social factors
  • Social support
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide
  • Systematic review


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