Suicide is a major public health problem with advancing age being one of the factors associated with increased risk. It has been suggested that most DSM axis-I disorders contribute to increased suicidal risk while dementia is one of the few exceptions. We conducted a 10-year retrospective analysis of all elderly patients suffering from dementia admitted to a large urban mental health center. Between 1991 and 2000 there were 1,551 admissions to our center who were 65 years or older. Of these, 341 were diagnosed (DSM-IV criteria) as suffering from dementia and 215/341 as suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Sixteen AD patients (7.4% of all AD patients) were admitted immediately following a suicide attempt. The control group consisted of the next admission of an elderly AD patient matched for age and gender. The index group (suicidal patients) differed from controls in Clinical Dementia Rating scores (p = 0.017) and higher frequency of previous suicide attempts (p = 0.022). Lifetime psychopathology was not associated with higher rates of suicide attempts (p = 0.068). Physicians should be aware that suicide attempts are not rare in elderly AD patients. Higher level of daily functioning and previous suicide attempts are associated with increased suicidal risk.

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