OBJECTIVE: The authors present an analysis of findings for the 65 years and over age group from the WHO/EURO Multicentre Study of Suicidal Behaviour (1989-93). METHODS: Multinational data on non-fatal suicidal behaviour is derived from 1518 subjects in 16 European centres. Local district data on suicide were available from 10 of the collaborating centres. RESULTS: Stockholm (Sweden), Pontoise (France) and Oxford (UK) had the highest suicide attempts rates. In most centres, the majority of elderly who attempted suicide were widow(er)s, often living alone, who used predominantly voluntary drug ingestion. Non-fatal suicidal behaviour decreased with increasing age, whereas suicide rates rose. The ratio between fatal and non-fatal behaviours was 1:2, that for males/females almost 1:1. In the years considered, substantial stability in suicide and attempted suicide rates was observed. As their age increased, suicidal subjects displayed only a limited tendency to repeat self-destructive acts. Moreover, there was little correlation between attempted suicide and suicide rates, which carries different clinical implications for non-fatal suicidal behaviour in the elderly compared with younger subjects in the same WHO/EURO study.