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Suicide among the elderly: The long-term impact of a telephone support and assessment intervention in northern Italy

  • Diego De Leo (a1), Marirosa Dello Buono (a2) and Jonathan Dwyer (a3)

Abstract

Background

Previous short-term work reported fewer suicides among elderly users of a telephone helpline and emergency response service (the Tele Help–Tele Check Service).

Aims

To examine long-term effects of the service on suicide in an elderly population of northern Italy.

Method

The service provided twice-weekly support and needs assessment telephone calls and a 24 h emergency alarm service. Data from 1988 to 1998 allowed comparison of 18 641 service users with a comparable general population group of the Veneto region in Italy.

Results

Significantly fewer suicide deaths (n OBSERVED=6) occurred among elderly service users (standardised mortality ratio (SMR) 28.8%) than expected (n EXPECTED=20.86; χ2=10.58, d.f.=1, P < 0.001) despite an assumed overrepresentation of persons at increased risk. The service performed well for elderly females (n OBSERVED=2, SMR=16.6%, n EXPECTED=12.03; χ2=8.36, d.f.=1, P < 0.001).

Conclusions

The study confirms the initial promise of the Tele Help–Tele Check service over a much longer time period. Further research will clarify the apparent lack of benefit for elderly males.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Professor Diego De Leo, Director, Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, Mt Gravatt Campus, Griffith University, 4111 Queensland, Australia. E-mail: D.DeLeo@mailbox.gu.edu.au

Footnotes

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See editorial, pp. 191–192, this issue.

Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes

References

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Suicide among the elderly: The long-term impact of a telephone support and assessment intervention in northern Italy

  • Diego De Leo (a1), Marirosa Dello Buono (a2) and Jonathan Dwyer (a3)
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