There are certain factors that are particularly prevalent for elderly or young people who attempt suicide. According to data presented at Suicide Lodge1, suicide in older people is strongly associated with the below:

  • Depression
  • Physical pain or illness
  • Living alone
  • Feelings of hopelessness and guilt

In youth, which account for a very high of suicide attempts, a number of studies1,2,3 have looked at the factors that are particularly influential, which include:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse: Alcohol and drugs affect thinking and reasoning ability and can act as depressants. They decrease inhibitions, increasing the likelihood of a depressed young person making a suicide attempt. American research has shown that one in three adolescents is intoxicated at the time of an attempt.
  • Unemployment: There is much debate over the role of unemployment in suicide and causal links have not been established. However the rate of attempted suicide amongst the short-term unemployed has been shown to be 10 times as high as for people in work.
  • Physical and sexual abuse: Young people who suffer, or have suffered, abuse in the past are often at increased risk of suicide or deliberate self-harm.
  • Custody: Within the prison population as a whole, young prisoners represent the largest group of at-risk individuals, particularly those under 21 who make up a third of the remand population in the UK. In 1995, 20% of prison suicides were by people aged 21 or under.

A study by the University of Oxford Centre for Suicide Research4 of actual suicides in Oxford by under 25 year olds cited that psychiatric disorders (most commonly depressive disorders) were the most popular reason for suicide, with it being diagnosed in 70.4% subjects. Very few individuals were receiving treatment for their disorders.

The same study found that a third of subjects had more than one factor contributing to their suicide, and that the suicides were often the end-point of long-term difficulties extending back to childhood or early adolescence. In addition to mental disorders, relationship and legal difficulties were identified as relatively common contributory factors to the suicides.

The process leading to suicide in young people is often long term, with untreated depression in the context of personality and/or relationship difficulties being a common picture at the time of death.


  1. From Suicide Lodge website,
  2. Petronis KR, Samuels JF, Moscicki EK, Anthony JC. An epidemiologic investigation of potential risk factors for suicide attempts. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 1990; 25(4): 193-9.
  3. U.S. Public Health Service. National strategy for suicide prevention: goals and objectives for action. Rockville, MD: USDHHS, 2001.
  4. K Hawton, K Houston, R Shepperd (1999) Suicide in young people: a study of 174 cases, aged under 25 years, based on coroners’ and medical records. British Journal of Psychiatry, 175, 271-276, with info also quoted on the University of Oxford Centre for Suicide Research website