Sleep quality influences suicide risks for older adults, according to a research undertaken by scientists from Stanford University School of Medicine. Rebecca Bernert, the study’s author, says this is a highly treatable condition. Bernert, PhD, is the director of the Suicide Prevention Research Laboratory at Stanford. The fact that sleep disorder increases suicide risks for older adults comes after a complex research.
Another research carried earlier this year involved blood analysis to determine suicide risks.
Sleep disorder increases suicide risks, so it should receive increased attention
“Suicide is the outcome of multiple, often interacting biological, psychological and social risk factors,” Bernert said. “Disturbed sleep stands apart as a risk factor and warning sign in that it may be undone, which highlights its importance as a screening tool and potential treatment target in suicide prevention.
To reach the conclusion, the team of scientists from Stanford looked at data from 14.456 adults over 65 years old. Out of this group, they chose 400 individuals who had similar sleeping patterns to 20 people who committed suicide. Scientists followed the sleeping behavior over a 10 years period. In the end, researchers concluded that older people with sleeping disorders have a suicide risk 1.4 times higher than their counterparts with high sleep quality.
The comparison between the two groups was done by looking at a series of data obtained through interviews. The questions addressed topics such as depression signs, and mental and physical functioning. Even after taking out the depression variable, the lack of quality sleep remained an important factor determining an increased risk of committing suicide.
Suicide is associated with stigma, so people suffering suicidal thoughts or attempts have troubles talking about the issue. However, if a disturbed sleeping pattern accounts for such a high influence in determining suicide, there is a ray of hope. If trouble sleeping is not a stigmatized disorder, focusing on improving the older adults’ sleep quality might reduce the suicide rates.
The subjects involved in the study were mostly white males. A group of twenty suicide victims is surely not enough to draw the definitive conclusion that sleep disorder increases suicide risks, but is a start. Further research involving data from cases involving women and minority groups may shed additional light on the issue.
People who are at risk of committing suicide should ask for help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK).