Suicide in older men: The health in men cohort study (HIMS)

Osvaldo P. Almeida, Kieran McCaul, Graeme J. Hankey, Bu B. Yeap, Jonathan Golledge, Leon Flicker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Suicide rates are high in later life, particularly among older men. Mood disorders are known risk factors, but the risk of suicide associated with poor physical health remains unclear. We completed a cohort study of a community representative sample of 38,170 men aged 65–85 in 1996 who were followed for up to 16 years. Data on suicide attempts and completion were obtained from the Western Australia Data Linkage System, as was information about medical and mental health diagnoses. 240 (0.6%) participants had a recorded history of past suicide attempt, most commonly by poisoning (85%). Sixty-nine men died by suicide during follow up (0.3% of all deaths), most often by hanging (50.7%). Age-adjusted competing risk regression showed that past suicide attempt was not a robust predictor of future suicide completion (sub-hazard ratio, SHR = 1.58, 95% CI = 0.39, 6.42), but bipolar (SHR = 7.82, 95% CI = 3.08, 19.90), depressive disorders (SHR = 2.26, 95% CI = 1.14, 4.51) and the number of health systems affected by disease (SHR for 3–4 health systems = 6.02, 95% CI = 2.69, 13.47; SHR for ≥ 5 health systems = 11.18, 95% CI = 4.89, 25.53) were. The population fraction of suicides attributable to having 5 or more health systems affected by disease was 79% (95% CI = 57%, 90%), and for any mood disorder (bipolar or depression) it was 17% (95% CI = 3%, 28%). Older Australian men with multiple health morbidities have the highest risk of death by suicide, even after taking into account the presence of mood disorders. Improving the overall health of the population may be the most effective way of decreasing the rates of suicide in later life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-38
Number of pages6
JournalPreventive Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


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