Suicide trends in the elderly during the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic-A public health urgency

Ashish Sarangi MD, Sozan Fares M.B.B.CH, Noha Eskander M.B.B.CH


Background: Older adults have an increased risk for suicide compared to the overall population, and the circumstances surrounding the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) may further increase this risk. COVID-19 pandemic social distancing policies and ethical guidelines for COVID-19 treatment may exacerbate experiences of social isolation, perceived expendability, and exposure to suffering, which are associated with the three main components of the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide: thwarted belongingness, perceived burdensomeness to society, and capability for suicide.

The COVID-19 pandemic places a drain on services and has prompted ethical debates about policies regarding treating younger adults first. These situations may lead older adults to have reduced access to needed medical and psychiatric services and can convey damaging messages of expendability. Furthermore, the potential prolonged stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic may affect neurological, immunological, and health functioning—compounding suicide risk. Potential methods to extend treatment options and reduce social isolation are discussed in this review.

Conclusion: More interaction among all age groups should decrease the mental health distress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, older adults need access to healthcare and to family members.

Keywords: Geriatric suicide, COVID-19, geriatric depression

Article citation: Sarangi A, Fares S, Eskander N. Suicide trends in the elderly during the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic-A public health urgency. The Southwest Respiratory and Critical Care Chronicles 2021;9(40):31–36
From: Department of Psychiatry (AS), Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, Texas; Hawler Medical University (SF), Iraq; Ain Shams Faculty of Medicine (NE), Egypt
Submitted: 4/25/2021
Accepted: 7/7/2021
Reviewer: John Culberson MD
Conflicts of interest: none
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Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.