Behavioral Sciences, Clinical Psychology; sex differences; suicide attempt; late life; depression; physical disability
Relatively little research attention has been paid to sex issues in late life suicidal behaviour. The aim was to compare clinical characteristics of women and men aged 70+ who were hospitalized after a suicide attempt. We hypothesized higher depression and anxiety scores in women, and we expected to find that men would more often attribute the attempt to health problems and compromised autonomy. Participants (56 women and 47 men, mean age 80) were interviewed by a psychologist. In addition to psychiatric and somatic health assessments, participants responded to an open-ended question concerning attributions of the attempt. There were no sex differences in depression and anxiety, but women were more likely to report that they found their situation hopeless (67.9% vs. 43.8%, p = 0.02). At least one serious physical disability was noted in 60.7% of the women and 53.2% of the men (p = 0.55). Proportions attributing their attempt to somatic illness did not differ (women, 14.5% vs. men 17.4%, p = 0.79), and similar proportions attributed the attempt to reduced autonomy (women, 21.8% vs. men, 26.1 %, p = 0.64). The unexpected lack of sex differences might be influenced by cultural context in which sex norms play a part.