2013 New Jersey Revised Statutes
Title 26 - HEALTH AND VITAL STATISTICS
Section 26:2MM-1 - Findings, declarations relative to elderly person suicide prevention.
26:2MM-1 Findings, declarations relative to elderly person suicide prevention.
1.The Legislature finds and declares that:
a.According to the National Institute of Mental Health, elderly Americans are disproportionately likely to die by suicide; individuals 65 years of age and older comprise only 13% of the United States population, but they accounted for 18% of all suicide deaths in 2000;
b.In New Jersey, individuals 65 years of age and older also comprise about 13% of the State population and they accounted for 17% of all suicide deaths in the State in 2000;
c.The national suicide rate for men is relatively constant from 25 to 64 years of age, but increases significantly after 65 years of age, with men accounting for 84% of suicides among individuals 65 years of age and older in 2000; and for women the national suicide rate peaks between 45 and 64 years of age and does so again after 75 years of age;
d.When categorized by race and gender, white men 85 years of age and older have among the highest suicide rates nationally, with 59 deaths per 100,000 persons in 2000, which is more than five times the national rate of 10.6 per 100,000, and according to "Healthy New Jersey 2010," issued by the Department of Health and Senior Services, the seventh leading cause of premature death among New Jerseyans is suicide, with the highest rates among elderly white males;
e.The risk factors for suicide among elderly Americans differ from those among younger groups; elderly persons have a higher prevalence of depression, greater use of highly lethal methods and greater social isolation;
f.The presence of mental illness (especially depression and alcohol abuse), the presence of physical illness or impairment, unrelieved pain, financial stress and social isolation (especially being widowed in males) and the availability of firearms in the home contribute to the higher incidence of suicide among elderly Americans;
g.Suicide among elderly Americans may even be underreported by 40% or more; omitted from statistics are "silent suicides," such as deaths from noncompliance with medical instructions, prescription overdosages, self-starvation or dehydration and other self-induced "accidents";
h.Most elderly patients who complete suicide saw their physicians within a few months of their deaths and more than a third did so within the week of their suicide, and warning signs which indicate a serious risk of suicide include: loss of interest in things or activities that are usually seen as enjoyable; lessening of social interactions, self-care and grooming; violating medical regimens or prescription dosages; experiencing or expecting loss of a spouse; feeling hopeless or worthless; and putting personal affairs in order, including giving things away or making changes to a will; and
i.Physicians, nurses and other health care professionals who treat and care for elderly patients need to be aware of the higher incidence of suicide among elderly Americans and recognize the risk factors associated with this age group.
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