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The relationship between elderly suicide rates and telephone use: a cross-national study

  • Ajit Shah (a1), Sofia Zarate-Escudero (a2) and Manjunatha Somayaji (a2)

Extract

Social isolation is an important determinant of elderly suicides (Shah and De, 1998). If elderly people have telephones then social isolation can be reduced as they can contact friends and relatives and vice versa. Also, the elderly can use the telephone to seek help from telephone helplines, general practitioners, social workers, psychiatric services and friends and relatives. Additionally, general practitioners, social workers, psychiatric services and friends and relatives can contact elderly people to check on them and support them. However, a major criticism of such interventions is that those determined to kill themselves are unlikely to use a helpline. There are several studies looking at the relationship between suicide and telephone help lines. These studies showed evidence that the helpline reduced suicidality during the course of the telephone consultation or immediately afterwards and reduced the number of re-attempted suicides (De Leo et al., 1995; Mishara and Daigle, 1997; Vaiva et al., 2006; Gould et al., 2007). A study of elderly participants reported an association between lower suicide rates and availability of a telephone help and telephone check service (De Leo et al., 1995). This service provided elderly people with home assistance by allowing them to call for help and to receive weekly assessments of needs and emotional support. However, there are only a limited number of studies in this area. Therefore, a cross-national study examining the relationship between elderly suicide rates and the prevalence of societal use of telephone was undertaken.

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References

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De Leo, D. C. et al. (1995). Lower suicide rates associated with a tele-help/tele-check service for the elderly at home. American Journal of Psychiatry, 152, 632634.
Gould, M. S., Kalafat, J., Munfakh, J., Lou, H. and Kleinman, M. (2007). An evaluation of crisis hotline outcomes. Part 2: Suicidal callers. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 37, 338352.
Mishara, B. L. and Daigle, M. S. (1997). Effects of different telephone intervention styles with suicidal callers at two suicide prevention centers: an empirical investigation. Journal of Community Psychology, 25, 861885.
Shah, A. K. (2007). The relationship between suicide rates and age: an analysis of multinational data from the World Health Organization. International Psychogeriatrics, 19, 11411152.
Shah, A. K. and De, T. (1998). Suicide in the elderly. International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, 2, 317.
Shah, A. K., Bhat, R., MacKenzie, S and Koen, C. (2008). A cross-national study of the relationship between elderly suicide rates and life expectancy and markers of socioeconomic status and healthcare. International Psychogeriatrics, 20, 347360.
Vaiva, G. et al. (2006). Effect of telephone contact on further suicide attempts in patients discharged from an emergency department: randomised controlled study. BMJ, 332, 12411245.

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