Background: The elderly population size in the U.K. and its constituent countries is increasing. Traditionally, suicide rates increase with aging.
Methods: Time trends in elderly suicide rates and age-associated trends in suicide rates in the U.K. and its three constituent countries (England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) were examined and comparisons were made of elderly suicide rates in these three countries using data from the World Health Organization.
Results: Elderly suicide rates in both sexes declined over the 24-year period 1979 to 2002 in the whole of the U.K., England and Wales, and Scotland, but only in females in the age-band 65–74 years in Northern Ireland. Female suicide rates increased with age while male suicide rates peaked in the age-band 25–34 years in England and Wales. In Northern Ireland and Scotland male suicide rates decreased with age and peaked in the age-band 25–34 years, and female suicide rates peaked in the age-bands 25–34, 35–44 and 45–54 years. Elderly suicide rates were lowest in Northern Ireland.
Conclusion: The similarities and differences in elderly suicide rates, time trends for elderly suicide rates and age-associated trends in suicide rates between the three constituent countries of the U.K. offer an opportunity to examine the differential characteristics between these countries which may potentially explain these observations.