World Suicide Prevention Day – The picture for older adults in the UK

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Hourglass charity supporting WSPD with a yellow ribbon

10th September 2021

Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy. One of the most painful things for those touched by such loss, is knowing that suicide is preventable.

When, and if, we think about losses to suicide, we often don’t picture older people being affected. And - while middle aged men (45 – 49) are the most at risk - 2018 saw the biggest increase in suicide rate among males aged 75 years and over, when compared to all other age groups, 32% higher than in 2017.1  Similarly, across April – July 2020 in England and Wales, decreases were seen in the rates of suicide in Females, except in those aged 75 and over, which saw an increase.2

ONS (2020) also highlights that suicide rates ‘tend to increase in the oldest age groups for both males and females’ with contributing factors including ‘psychiatric illness, deterioration of physical health and functioning, and social factors.’3

An additional study, shared by The Warwick Research Archive Portal (WRAP) looking at the victims of domestic abuse at UK charity, Refuge, indicated that those affected by abuse may also be more likely to take their own lives, with almost a quarter (24%) of Refuge’s clients feeling suicidal at one time or another and 18% making plans to end their life.4 

As we know at Hourglass, facing abuse can lead to feelings of hopelessness, depression, anxiety and other factors associated with decreased wellbeing. We also know that the abuse of older people is all too wide spread within our communities, often occurring behind closed doors. It is vital that anyone facing abuse, or feeling suicidal is given the support they need, urgently. 

Our Helpline services are in place for any older person facing or at risk of abuse, or anyone worried for an older person’s welfare. Our free and confidential helpline is available 9am – 5pm weekdays on 0808 808 8141

If you or someone you know feels suicidal, or needs a listening ear, you can contact Samaritans on 116 123 for free at any time 24/7.


1. ONS (2019) Suicides in the UK: 2018 registrations 

2. ONS (2020) Deaths from suicide that occurred in England and Wales: April to July 2020 

3. ONS (2020) Suicides in England and Wales: 2019 registrations 

4.   Aitken, Ruth and Munro, Vanessa (2018) Domestic abuse and suicide: exploring the links with refuge’s client Base and work force via WRAP (2018)