The suicide rate in Norway among persons older than 15 years has increased from 10/100,000 during the period 1965-67 to 18/100,000 during the period 1985-87. Attention has been focused in particular on the higher rates among young people, and not so much on the rates among the elderly. The suicide rate for males older than 70 years increased by 51% to 27/100,000 in the 20 year period, and is now at the same level as among the age group 20-69 years. The suicide rate for females older than 70 years increased by 68% to 7/100,000 during the same period. The suicide rate for females varies more with age, and is highest (15/100,000) in the age group 50-59. In 1989, 36 patients (75% females) older than 70 years were admitted to the Medical Department. Ullevål sykehus for self-poisoning. This is about twice as many as four years before. The annual rates of self-poisonings were 143/100,000 for females and 93/100,000 for males. The suicidal intention was much higher (61% suicidal attempts) among patients older than 70 years than among persons below this age (15%). In 44% of the cases the main problem preceding the self-poisoning was loneliness and isolation. The toxic agent was usually (56%) benzodiazepine hypnotics. The findings indicate that the suicide rates among the elderly in Norway will continue to increase, at least in the cities, where loneliness and isolation is an increasing problem.
Comment In: Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2002 Jun 10;122(15):1457-6112185733