Introduction: Studies in the West have concluded that the severity of depression is the strongest predictor of the course of suicidal ideations among the elderly. However, Asian culture tends to be more reserved and this may impact on the reporting of suicidal ideations. This study aims to determine the prevalence of suicidal ideation among depressed elderly people in Singapore and attempts to investigate the relationship between severity of depression and suicidality.
Method: Eighty consecutive depressed patients were recruited and severity of depressive symptoms rated with Beck's Depression Inventory (BDI). Suicidality was assessed using the Beck's Hopelessness Scale (BHS) and Beck's Suicide Intent Scale (BSS). Suicidal ideation was defined as any thought of wanting to kill oneself over the past seven days and not just a passive wish to die.
Results: 53.8% verbalized thoughts of wanting to kill themselves. Males were three times more likely to report suicidal thoughts. Severity of depression did not significantly influence the presence of suicidal thinking. The association of depression severity and suicidal ideations is not strongly supported.
Conclusions: Elderly males were more likely to report suicidal ideations when depressed. Elderly patients who reported suicidal ideations were likely to be more severely depressed. However, in a depressed elderly person, the absence of suicidal ideations would not infer that the episode of depression was less severe.