Few sex differences in hospitalized suicide attempters aged 70 and above

Stefan Wiktorsson, Therese Rydberg Sterner, Madeleine Mellqvist Fässberg, Ingmar Skoog, Anne Ingeborg Berg, Paul Duberstein, Kimberly Van Orden, Margda Waern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Relatively little research attention has been paid to sex issues in late life suicidal behaviour. The aim was to compare clinical characteristics of women and men aged 70+ who were hospitalized after a suicide attempt. We hypothesized higher depression and anxiety scores in women, and we expected to find that men would more often attribute the attempt to health problems and compromised autonomy. Participants (56 women and 47 men, mean age 80) were interviewed by a psychologist. In addition to psychiatric and somatic health assessments, participants responded to an open-ended question concerning attributions of the attempt. There were no sex differences in depression and anxiety. Forty-five percent of the men and 14% of the women had a history of substance use disorder (p = 0.02). At least one serious physical disability was noted in 60.7% of the women and 53.2% of the men (p = 0.55). Proportions attributing their attempt to somatic illness did not differ (women, 14.5% vs. men 17.4%, p = 0.79), and similar proportions attributed the attempt to reduced autonomy (women, 21.8% vs. men, 26.1%, p = 0.64). We found strikingly similar figures for depression scores, functional disability and attributions for attempting suicide in older men and women. Larger studies are needed in diverse settings as sex differences might be influenced by cultural context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number141
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 16 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Depression
  • Late life
  • Physical disability
  • Sex differences
  • Suicide attempt

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