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As baby boomers age into retirement, it is important to examine the various mental health challenges that are present in this segment of the population. The transition of millions of the population into older adulthood poses a significant potential impact on public health costs. Identifying, diagnosing and treating mental disorders, such as depression, can help patients avoid serious associated health consequences.
A recent study sought to better understand the occurrence of suicide attempts among older adult populations (Morin et al., 2012). The study focused on older adults in Western Sweden and looked at the associations present between attempted suicide and alcohol use disorder.
The researchers recruited individuals over the age of 70 who were admitted to a hospital emergency department following an attempt at suicide. The invitation to participate in the study was extended to 133 patients, and 103, of which 47 were men, joined the study group.
The research team also collected data from the Prospective Population Study of Women and Gerontological and Geriatric Population Studies to develop a comparison group. Four comparison cases for 99 of the patients and three comparison cases for the remaining four participants were collected to establish 408 control cases.
The patients were administered a cognitive assessment, in addition to an interview by a psychologist to determine alcohol consumption history and history of any additional suicide-related behaviors. Researchers also examined medical histories for signs of alcohol use disorder and instances of mental health problems.
The team then used logistic regression analysis to determine lifetime alcohol use disorder among both the patients and the controls. In another multivariate model the researchers controlled for history of mental disorders and a history of suicide attempts.
The results of the analysis show that 26 percent of patients treated for a suicide attempt in the hospital also had an alcohol use disorder, compared with four percent among those with no suicide attempt. Even after controlling for previous suicide attempts and previous instances of psychiatric health issues, there was a significant difference between those with alcohol use disorder and those who did not have alcohol use disorder.
participants were recruited in hospital emergency departments. This factor eliminates the inclusion of older adults who attempted suicide but did not receive emergency medical treatment.
In addition, the researchers mention that the participants may have been more open about discussing alcohol-related behaviors when compared with the control group members. The study also does not provide any evidence about a causal relationship between alcohol use disorder and suicide among older adults, only that there may be an association present.
The findings suggest that there may be a strong relationship between alcohol use disorder and suicide attempts among the elderly. More research is necessary to examine the potential causal relationship between the two factors.