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Poor sleep quality increases suicide risk for older adults: study

2014-08-14 08:45 Xinhua Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

Older adults suffering from poor sleep quality are more likely to die of suicide than well- rested adults, a U.S. study said Wednesday.

The study, published in the U.S. journal JAMA Psychiatry, is important because sleep disturbances are highly treatable, yet arguably less stigmatizing than many other suicide risk factors, said lead author Rebecca Bernert of Stanford University School of Medicine.

Older adults have disproportionately higher rates of suicide risk compared to other age groups, making suicide prevention in elderly populations a pressing public health challenge, according to Bernert.

Using data from an epidemiological study of 14,456 adults aged 65 and older, Bernert and her colleagues compared the sleep quality of 20 patients who died by suicide with the sleep patterns of 400 similar individuals over a 10-year period.

They found that participants reporting poor sleep had a 1.4 times greater chance of death by suicide than participants who reported sleeping well.

Two sleep factors in particular -- difficulty falling asleep and nonrestorative sleep -- were associated with increased suicide risk.

The researchers were also surprised to find that poor sleep predicted suicide risk better than depressive symptoms when comparing the two risk factors.

"Suicide is the outcome of multiple, often interacting biological, psychological and social risk factors," Bernert said. "Disturbed sleep stands apart as a risk factor and warning sign in that it may be undone, which highlights its importance as a screening tool and potential treatment target in suicide prevention."

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