Background: To inform public health suicide prevention and mental health promotion campaigns, this study will carry out gender-specific analyses to ascertain the determinants of suicidal ideation or death thoughts in a large representative sample of community dwelling older adults.
Methods: Data used in this study were from the ESA survey (Enquête sur la Santé des Aînés – Survey on the Health of the Elderly) on a large representative sample of community dwelling older adults (n = 2,494). Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to study the association between suicidal ideation, mental health service, and antidepressant use and a number of clinical and socio-demographic factors.
Results: The prevalence of suicidal ideation reached 6.3%. The findings of this study show that the presence of suicidal ideation in females is associated with younger age, single or widowed status, the reporting of daily life stressors, and chronic conditions as well as the presence of major or minor depression in the past year. In males, suicidal ideation is associated with older age, single or widowed status, and depression. Furthermore, suicidal ideation is significantly associated with antidepressant use in females but not males and this after controlling for a number of clinical factors.
Conclusion: Although no gender differences are observed between suicidal ideation and mental health service use, females with suicidal ideation are more likely to be dispensed antidepressants than males with suicidal ideation. Future research should focus on gender-specific determinants of antidepressant and mental health service use associated with suicidal ideation.