Validating the interpersonal theory of suicide among older adultspre- and peri-COVID-19 pandemic.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Aging Ment Health, 2022, pp. 1-7
Issue Date:
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OBJECTIVES: Global suicide rates are highest among older adults, and especially older men, yet proximal predictors of suicidal ideation in older age remain poorly understood. This study tested the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide in older men and women by investigating whether perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness and/or their interaction are proximal predictors of suicidal ideation before versus during the global COVID-19 pandemic. METHODS: The sample (N = 208) included healthy community-dwelling older Australian persons surveyed face-to-face pre-pandemic (n = 102), or online peri-pandemic (n = 106). Depression, social interaction, social satisfaction, thwarted belongingness, and perceived burdensomeness were assessed as predictors of suicidal ideation. RESULTS: Perceived burdensomeness was a more proximal predictor of suicidal ideation among older adults than depression or thwarted belongingness. Suicidal ideation and perceived burdensomeness were higher in men than women, but sex did not moderate the influence of perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belongingness or social satisfaction on suicidal desire. The interaction between perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness predicted more additional variance in suicidal ideation in the older persons surveyed during the COVID-19 pandemic relative to those surveyed before the pandemic. CONCLUSION: Suicidal ideation among older persons peri-pandemic is discussed, and recommendations are made for age-specific suicide prevention strategies.
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