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The relation between social isolation and increasing suicide rates in the elderly

Christoph Heuser (Institute of Psychogerontology, Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg Department Psychologie und Sportwissenschaften, Nürnberg, Germany)
Jürgen Howe (Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen-Nürnberg, Nurnberg, Germany)

Quality in Ageing and Older Adults

ISSN: 1471-7794

Article publication date: 1 November 2018

Issue publication date: 5 April 2019




Suicidal attempts and thoughts are particularly relevant to the health of the elderly and can impact not only the individual, but family, friends and spouses as well. This topic is important for the gerontological research community, particularly as it relates to social isolation and the feeling of loneliness, common in this population group. The purpose of this paper is to investigate new knowledge about the relationship between an increased risk of suicide in the elderly and social isolation or loneliness.


An extensive search was conducted to find relevant studies to answer the research question. Database research was done in PubMed and PsycINFO for relevant studies within the last 10 years. The title and abstract of relevant articles were screened before the full-text was acquired.


In PubMed 163 studies were identified, and in PsycINFO 66 studies were identified. After a thorough screening, nine studies were found to be appropriate for this study.


It is not clear which risk factor leads to an increase in suicidal thoughts and attempts, however most studies contemplated loneliness and isolation as a covariant. A causal link between the concepts is not simple. Nevertheless, loneliness and isolation seem to be relevant factors for suicidal ideations.



Ethics: there was no ethical approval needed. Funding: the study was funded by departmental resources. Disclosure: there were no conflicts of interest.


Heuser, C. and Howe, J. (2019), "The relation between social isolation and increasing suicide rates in the elderly", Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 2-9.



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