Is Isolation And Stress From COVID-19 Leading To More Deaths By Suicide
Whether the coronavirus pandemic influences suicide rates in older adults is not yet known. However, the pandemic is likely to result in a confluence of the risk factors for suicidal behaviours.
In an effort to reduce rates of infection, governments have adopted various policies such as social distancing, social isolation, and quarantine. Older people have been specifically advised to stay home given their vulnerability to COVID-19 and to reduce the burden on health services by limiting the spread of the illness.
The adverse effects of isolation may be especially felt by older people and people with pre-existing mental illness. Living alone, loneliness, and social isolation are well-recognized risk factors for suicide in late life. Before the pandemic, even older adults living in senior housing communities designed to reduce social isolation described moderate levels of loneliness presumably now exacerbated by quarantine and social isolation.
A key risk factor for suicide in older people is psychiatric illness, especially affective disorders. The pandemic may result in new cases of affective disorders and create barriers to accessing treatment. During the SARS epidemic, high r