Are religousness and death attitudes associated with the wish to die in older people?

Bonnewyn, A., Shah, Abdul Khaliq, Bruffaerts, R. and Demyttenaere, K. (2016) Are religousness and death attitudes associated with the wish to die in older people? International Psychogeriatrics, 28 (3). pp. 397-404. ISSN 1041-6102

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Background: A wish to die is common in older persons and is associated with increased mortality. Several risk factors have been identified, but the association between religiousness and a wish to die in older adults has been underexplored, and the association between death attitudes and the presence of a wish to die has not been investigated yet. The aim of this study is to explore the relationship between religiousness and death attitudes on the one hand and wish to die on the other hand, adjusting for clinical factors such as the presence of depression or somatic disorder. Methods: The sample comprised 113 older inpatients (from a psychiatric and somatic ward) with a mean age of 74 years. Psychiatric diagnoses were assessed by the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Disorders, and logistic regression analyses estimated the unique contribution of religiousness and death attitudes to the wish to die, controlling for socio-demographic variables, depressive disorder, and somatic symptoms. Results: Both religiousness and death attitudes were associated with a wish to die in univariate models. Adding these variables in a multivariate logistic hierarchical model, death attitudes remained significant predictors but religiousness did not; 55% of the pseudovariance of the wish to die was explained by these variables, with an effective size of 0.89. Major depressive episode, somatic symptoms, Fear of Death, and Escape Acceptance were the most important predictors of the wish to die. Conclusions: This study suggests that how older adults perceive death partly determines whether they have a wish to die. There may be a clinical, patient-oriented benefit in discussing with older patients about how they perceive death, as this can play a role in the early detection (and prevention) of death or suicide ideation and associated behaviors in older adults.

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