Background. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate the influence of several risk factors (particularly physical and mental disorders, loneliness and housing conditions) on the wish to die in the elderly.
Method. Using data from a population-based sample of 516 senior citizens (70 to 103 years of age) in Berlin (Germany), we compared 54 persons with death wishes with 462 persons without death wishes on several psychosocial risk factors, physical health and psychiatric diagnoses. A logistic regression analysis was also conducted.
Results. The data indicate that the wish to die is strongly associated with the presence of a mental disorder, especially major depression, while higher age, female gender, subjective assessment of physical health and negative living conditions were all only moderately related to death wishes.
Conclusions. Our results emphasize the need for very careful diagnosis of death wishes in the very old and question the view that it is a normal and understandable phenomenon in older age.