Disclosures: Lutz reports receiving funding from the NIMH. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
July 01, 2021
1 min read

Psychotherapy reduces functional disability, suicide ideation among older adults

Disclosures: Lutz reports receiving funding from the NIMH. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
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Depression treatment among older adults reduced functional disability, which in turn reduced suicide ideation, according to study results published in American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

“Despite the prevalence of suicide on the older population, there has been little research attention to treatments to reduce suicide risk in older adults,” Julie Lutz, PhD, of the department of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide, and colleagues wrote. “Psychotherapies may indirectly help to reduce suicide ideation via improvements in late-life depression and functioning, both significant risk factors in this population. For example, problem-solving therapy (PST) has shown promise in reducing disability among older adults with depression, and in reducing suicide ideation, though prior studies have not examined how specific improvements associated with PST might be associated with late-life suicide ideation over time.”

older people walking
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The researchers sought to assess the relationship between changes in functional disability and suicide ideation among 65 adults aged 65 to 91 years (72% white; 66% women) with depression after they received psychotherapy. Participants completed 12 sessions of PST, as well as measures of disability via the WHO Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 and suicide ideation via the Geriatric Suicide Ideation Scale (GSIS) at baseline and after treatment.

Results of hierarchical linear regressions showed an association between reductions in functional disability and overall reductions in suicide ideation on the GSIS (P < .01), particularly for the Loss of Worth GSIS subscale (P < .001).

“This investigation provides preliminary support for the hypothesis that interventions that reduce functional disability in older adults with depression may be effective in also reducing suicide ideation,” Lutz and colleagues wrote. “Longitudinal studies of older adults recovering from functional impairments, as well as controlled trials directly examining the effects of PST and other interventions that improve functioning on late-life suicide ideation, are needed.”