Epidemiology of suicidal ideation and help-seeking behaviors among the elderly in Japan

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This study offers an analysis of the elderly (over 65 years of age) among a general community population in terms of the percentages of: (i) persons with recurring thoughts of death and/or of committing suicide, and (ii) people who have consulted others, including medical professionals, with regard to these problems. Among 433 elderly over the age of 65 in one community in a town in Aomori Prefecture, 358 agreed to participate in the project. Forty-four participants (12.3%) responded that they had either ‘thoughts of death’ or ‘thoughts of suicide’, and these thoughts had continued for more than 2 weeks in 12 participants (3.4%). Only 15 of the 44 suicidal elderly responded that they had consulted someone about their problems. Although there are many elderly people exhibiting a subclinical depressive state with recurring thoughts of death or thoughts of suicide, the number of people who consult family members, professionals, or others is very low. This suggests the importance of community networking through educational activities so that people can more readily talk to and support one another.

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