Perceived Burdensomeness and Suicide Ideation in Older Adults

Older adults have the highest risk of death by suicide in the United States. Improving our understanding of the factors that lead to increased risk of suicide in older adults will greatly inform our ability to prevent suicide in this high-risk group. Two studies were conducted to test the effect of perceived burdensomeness, a component of the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide (Joiner, 2005), on suicide ideation in older adults. Further, gender was examined as a moderator of this association to determine if perceived burdensomeness exerted a greater influence on suicide ideation in males. The results of these studies suggest that perceived burdensomeness accounts for significant variance in suicide ideation, even after predictors such as depressive symptoms, hopelessness, and functional impairment are controlled. Gender did not moderate the association. The implications of these findings for treatment of older adults with suicide ideation and elevated suicide risk are discussed.