Few studies on elders’ suicide and depression have integrated social and community factors in their explicative models. Most of the studied variables used are focused on individual and based on psychopathological models. The purpose of this study is to investigate the impact of socio-environmental factors on death ideations, using data from the European SHARE cohort.
Social support components and death ideations have been studied, together with known individual risk factors, within a sample of 11,425 European participants in the SHARE study, aged over 64. The item evaluating death ideations was extracted from the EURO-D12 questionnaire.
The high prevalence of death ideations (6.9% for men and 13.0% for women) confirmed that elders’ death ideations, as it is known to be linked to suicidal behaviors, is a major public health issue. Bivariate analyses revealed a strong association between community participation and death ideations. This association was no longer significant while adjusting for depressive symptomatology. The logistic model identified that factors significantly associated with death ideations, when adjusted for the other factors were: having multiple depressive symptoms (OR = 1.64 per symptom) being aged, especially over 84 (OR = 1.58), being retired for fewer than five years (OR = 1.46), being widowed (OR = 1.35) and having a long-term illness (OR = 1.28).
Although social and community participation is associated to death ideations, this link becomes non-significant in a regression model taking into account other factors. It is important to notice that depressive symptoms, which are obviously closely related to death ideations, take the greatest part in the association among all associated factors. Our results suggest that, consistently with the literature, while addressing death ideation or suicide prevention, professionals have to consider first the secondary prevention of depressive symptomatology. Strategies targeting social isolation and community participation should be considered as part of primary prevention policies.