Differences between younger and older adults in the structure of suicidal intent and its correlates

Marta Miret, Roberto Nuevo, Consuelo Morant, Enrique Sainz-Cortón, Miguel Ángel Jiménez-Arriero, Juan J. López-Ibor, Blanca Reneses, Jerónimo Saiz-Ruiz, Enrique Baca-García, José Luis Ayuso-Mateos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To analyze differences in the variables associated with severity of suicidal intent and in the main factors associated with intent when comparing younger and older adults.

DESIGN: Observational, descriptive cross-sectional study.

SETTING: Four general hospitals in Madrid, Spain.

PARTICIPANTS: Eight hundred seventy suicide attempts by 793 subjects split into two groups: 18-54 year olds and subjects older than 55 years.

MEASUREMENTS: The authors tested the factorial latent structure of suicidal intent through multigroup confirmatory factor analysis for categorical outcomes and performed statistical tests of invariance across age groups using the DIFFTEST procedure. Then, they tested a multiple indicators-multiple causes (MIMIC) model including different covariates regressed on the latent factor "intent" and performed two separate MIMIC models for younger and older adults to test for differential patterns.

RESULTS: Older adults had higher suicidal intent than younger adults (z = 2.63, p = 0.009). The final model for the whole sample showed a relationship of intent with previous attempts, support, mood disorder, personality disorder, substance-related disorder, and schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. The model showed an adequate fit (chi²[12] = 22.23, p = 0.035; comparative fit index = 0.986; Tucker-Lewis index = 0.980; root mean square error of approximation = 0.031; weighted root mean square residual = 0.727). All covariates had significant weights in the younger group, but in the older group, only previous attempts and mood disorders were significantly related to intent severity.

CONCLUSIONS: The pattern of variables associated with suicidal intent varies with age. Recognition, and treatment of geriatric depression may be the most effective measure to prevent suicidal behavior in older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)839-847
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010


  • attempted suicide
  • Spain
  • age factors
  • social support
  • antidepressive agents
  • causality
  • cross-sectional studies
  • disabled persons
  • statistical factor analysis
  • intention
  • severity of illness index
  • mental disorders
  • secondary prevention


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