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A Paucity of Data on Veterans 65 and Older and Risk of Suicide: A Systematic Review.

Sullivan JL, Simons KV, Mills WL, Hilgeman MM, Freytes IM, Morin RT, Bower ES, Clark R, Byers AL. A Paucity of Data on Veterans 65 and Older and Risk of Suicide: A Systematic Review. The American journal of geriatric psychiatry : official journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry. 2023 Jul 1; 31(7):525-539.

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Older veterans are vastly underrepresented in studies that shape national suicide prevention strategies. This is of great concern because factors that impact younger veterans may not be as robust in later life. Although younger veterans have higher rate of suicide, the highest counts of death by suicide are in older veterans. However, it remains unclear from the extant literature what factors may influence increased or decreased risk of late-life suicide in veterans. The objective of this systematic review was to identify risk and protective factors related to suicide outcomes (i.e., ideation, attempt, death, or suicide-related behavior [SRB]) among older veterans. Furthermore, it offers data regarding future study directions and hypothesis generation for late-life suicide research and for informing potential intervention and prevention efforts in this area. We searched 4 databases from inception up to May 5, 2022. We screened 2,388 abstracts for inclusion and 508 articles required full text review. The final sample included 19 studies published between 2006 and 2022. We found five domains of factors studied (i.e., neuropsychiatric, social determinants of health, aging stereotypes, residential and supportive housing settings, and multifactorial-neuropsychiatric/mental health and physical health) with more risk factors than protective factors reported. Across the three suicide outcomes only neuropsychiatric factors were consistently identified as risk factors. Neuropsychiatric factors also comprised the largest group of risk factors studied. More innovative targets to consider for intervention and more innovative methods to predict suicide in late-life are needed. There is also continued necessity to design suicide prevention interventions for older veterans given lethality trends.

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