Background: An association between sense of coherence (SOC) and suicidal behavior has been suggested. The aim of this study was to identify factors associated with low SOC in elderly suicide attempters.
Methods: Eighty non-demented hospital-treated suicide attempters aged 70 years and older (38 men, 42 women, mean age 79.4 years) took part in an interview with a research psychologist and completed the 29-item SOC questionnaire. The interview included questions regarding social situation and health-related factors. The Comprehensive Psychopathological Rating Scale (CPRS) provided symptom ratings that were used in a diagnostic algorithm for DSM-IV major depression. The Cumulative Illness Rating Scale for Geriatrics (CIRS-G) was used to identify individuals with serious physical illness.
Results: There was a strong relationship between major depression and SOC. While we could show no relationship between severe physical illness and SOC, associations were demonstrated with social variables including too little time spent with children, too little time spent with grandchildren and having moved within the past five years. These associations remained significant in regression models adjusted for sex, age and major depression.
Conclusions: A number of social variables were independently related to SOC in elderly suicide attempters. Prospective studies are needed in order to determine whether SOC-strengthening interventions can reduce the risk of suicidal behavior in seniors.