Predictors of suicide in patients with dementia

Lisa S. Seyfried, Helen C. Kales, Rosalinda V. Ignacio, Yeates Conwell, Marcia Valenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Background: Assessing predictors of suicide and means of completion in patients with dementia may aid the development of interventions to reduce risk of suicide among the growing population of individuals with dementia. Methods: This national, retrospective, cohort study used data from the Department of Veterans Affairs (fiscal years 2001-2005). The sample included patients ≥60 years old diagnosed with dementia (N = 294,952), of which 241 committed suicide. Potential predictors of suicide were identified using logistic regression. Suicide methods are also reported. Results: Increased risk of suicide was associated with white race (OR: 2.4, 95% CI: 1.2, 4.8), depression (OR: 2.0, 95% CI: 1.5, 2.9), a history of inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations (OR: 2.3, 95% CI: 1.5, 3.5), and prescription fills of antidepressants (OR: 2.1, 95% CI: 1.6, 2.8) or anxiolytics (OR: 2.0, 95% CI: 1.5, 2.7). Nursing home admission was associated with lower suicide risk (OR: 0.3, 95% CI: 0.1, 0.8). Severity of medical comorbidity did not affect risk of suicide. Sensitivity analysis indicated that the majority of suicides occurred in those who were newly diagnosed with dementia. Firearms were the most common method of suicide (73%) used. Conclusions: Given the higher rate of suicide in those receiving treatment for psychiatric symptoms and the high proportion that died using firearms, closer monitoring and assessment of gun access may be an important part of initial treatment planning for older male patients with dementia, particularly those with symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-573
Number of pages7
JournalAlzheimer's and Dementia
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Dementia
  • Elderly
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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