Insomnia and Suicidal Ideation in Older Adults

May 16, 2013

News Type:  Weekly Spark Research

A study of people 65-94 years of age found that insomnia was significantly associated with suicidal ideation in this age group. The relationship between insomnia and suicidal ideation was mediated by depression (that is, insomnia was not significantly associated with suicidal ideation in the absence of depressive symptoms). However, the authors suggest that insomnia may serve as a valuable indicator of suicide risk among older adults, as other research shows that older people often suffer from insomnia before they begin to exhibit symptoms of depression.

The researchers also recommend that health care providers should (1) screen older adults for insomnia, (2) assess older adults reporting insomnia and depression for suicidal ideation, (3) be aware that older adults with insomnia are at increased risk for depression (and thus suicidal ideation), and (4) understand that other research has shown that insomnia can interfere with the treatment of depression.  Nightmares were not found to be associated with suicidal ideation.

Nadorff, M. R., Fiske, A., Sperry,J. A., Petts, R., & Gregg, J. J. (2013).Insomnia symptoms, nightmares, and suicidal ideation in older adults. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 68(2), 145-152.