Suicide in the global Chinese aging population: A review of risk and protective factors, consequences, and interventions

Xinqi Dong, E. Shien Chang, Ping Zeng, Melissa A. Simon

Publication Date: 01/01/2015

As one of the leading causes of death around the world, suicide is a global public health threat. In the Chinese population, suicides constitute one-fifth of all recorded suicides in the world. Despite the factual data on suicide rates, the understanding of various causal factors behind suicide, including risk and protective factors and adverse health care, remained incomplete among the global Chinese aging population. To fill in the knowledge void, this paper reviews the epidemiology of suicide among Chinese older adults globally as well as explores the existing intervention strategies. Using the PRISMA statement, we performed a systematic review of exiting research on the topic, including studies describing suicide among Chinese older adults in communities outside of Asia. A literature search was conducted online by using both medical and social science data-bases. Our findings highlighted that elderly suicide in Chinese populations is significantly affected by the social, cultural, and familial contexts within which the individual lived prior to committing suicide. Reviewing such research indicated that while reducing risk factors may contribute to lowering suicides amongst Chinese older adults, measures to improve protective factors are also critical. Support through ongoing family and community care relationships is necessary to improve resilience in older adults and positive aging. Future longitudinal studies on the risk factors and protective factors, and adverse health consequences are called for to devise culturally and linguistically appropriate prevention and intervention programs in global Chinese aging populations.