BACKGROUND: Suicide rates generally increase with age. A recent cross-national study, using one-year cross-sectional data on suicide rates identified regional and cross-national patterns for elderly suicide rates. However, findings from studies using one-year cross-sectional data on suicide rates may be open to bias because of random year on year fluctuations in elderly suicide rates.
METHODS: One-year average of suicide rates for both sexes in the age-bands 65-74 and 75+ years were calculated from data on suicide rates for five consecutive years ascertained from the World Health Organization. Cross-national variations were examined by segregating different countries into four quartiles of suicide rates.
RESULTS: There was wide cross-national variation in elderly suicide rates. Elderly suicide rates were the lowest in Caribbean and Arabic/Islamic countries, and the highest in central and eastern European, countries emerging from the former Soviet Union, some oriental and some west European countries.
CONCLUSIONS: The regional and cross-national patterns for elderly suicide rates observed in this study were almost identical to a similar earlier study using one-year cross-sectional data on suicide rates. This suggests that the findings of both studies were accurate and robust, and potential explanations for the observed cross-national variations in elderly suicide rates requires further study.
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