Poor Sleep Quality and Suicide Risk in Seniors

Aug 16, 2014
Poor Sleep Quality Associated with Increased Suicide Risk in Older Adults

Bottom Line: Reported poor sleep quality, independent of a depressed mood, appears to be associated with an increased risk for suicide in older adults.

Authors: Rebecca A. Bernert, Ph.D., of the Stanford University School of Medicine, California, and colleagues

Background: Suicide is a preventable public health problem and accounts for almost 1 million deaths annually worldwide. Late life is characterized by an increased prevalence of sleep complaints and disproportionately elevated rates of suicide. The study sample included 420 individuals (400 control patients and 20 patients who died from suicide) who were selected from 14,456 participants.

How the Study Was Conducted: The authors examined the risk for suicide associated with poor reported sleep in a group of older adults (with an average age of nearly 75 years) during a 10-year observation period.

Results: Those individuals who reported poorer sleep quality at baseline had a 1.4 times increased risk for suicide. When authors controlled for the effects of a depressed mood, people with poorer sleep at baseline still demonstrated a 1.2 times greater risk for suicide during the 10-year observation period. Two sleep factors in particular – difficulty falling asleep and nonrestorative sleep – were associated with increased suicide risk.

Discussion: “We suggest that poor subjective sleep quality may therefore represent a useful screening tool and a novel therapeutic target for suicide prevention in late life.”

(JAMA Psychiatry. Published online August 13, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.1126.