Study finds ‘desire to die’ transient

Study finds ‘desire to die’ transient

Researchers have found that the “desire to die” that is sometimes expressed among elderly people living in community is often “transient” and linked to experiences of loneliness and depression.

Longitudinal study

The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda) found that four per cent of 8,100 people aged over 50 expressed a desire to die when surveyed. The same research found that almost three-quarters of those who expressed this desire initially did not feel the same way when revisited by researchers two years later.

Commenting on the finding, Dr Des O’Neill of Tallaght Hospital said that the study is a helpful reminder that people “change their minds” around important issues.

The report’s authors noted that the study is of particular interest when the Dying with Dignity Bill is considered, and have called for an “enhanced focus on improving access to mental health care and addressing social isolation in older people”.


Speaking to The Irish Times, consultant geriatrician at St James’ Hospital and author of the study, Dr Robert Briggs said most older people with a desire to die and co-existing depression had not been formally diagnosed with the depression. Neither had they received the proper mental health treatment.