Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 November 2007
Background: Elderly suicide rates may be influenced by mental health funding, service provision and national policy.
Methods: A cross-national study examining the relationship between elderly suicide rates and (i) the presence of national policy on mental health, (ii) funding for mental health, and (iii) measures of mental health service provision was undertaken by utilizing data from the World Health Organization website.
Results: The main findings are: (i) there is no relationship between suicide rates in both sexes in both elderly age-bands and different measures of mental health policy, except they were increased in countries with a substance abuse policy; and (ii) suicide rates in both sexes in both elderly age-bands were higher in countries with greater provision of mental health services, including the number of psychiatric beds, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and the availability of training in mental health for primary care professionals.
Conclusions: Cross-national ecological studies using national-level aggregate data are not helpful in establishing a causal relationship (and the direction of this relationship) between elderly suicide rates and mental health funding, service provision and national policies. The impact of introducing national policies on mental health, increasing funding for mental health services and increasing mental health service provision on elderly suicide rates requires further examination in longitudinal within-country studies.
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