Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Supervisor

Dr. Marnin Heisel

Abstract

Suicide rates among older adults are high in Canada and around the world. Evidence-informed and theory-driven research on late life suicide may help to devise effective interventions to reduce suicide rates among older adults. In this thesis, I tested the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide (IPTS: Joiner, 2005; Van Orden et al, 2010) using data collected from a community-based sample of older adults recruited for a larger study designed to assess risk and resiliency factors for late life suicide (Dr. Marnin Heisel, PI). According to the IPTS, (Hypothesis 1) the interpersonal constructs of perceived burdensomeness (PB) and thwarted belongingness (TB) can each lead to passive thoughts of suicide (i.e. death ideation [DI]), and (Hypothesis 2) the combination of PB, TB and hopelessness leads to active thoughts of suicide (i.e. suicide ideation [SI]). A sample of 124 older adults (Mage = 74.6, SD = 6.0) completed measures of PB, TB, SI, DI, social hopelessness (SH), and depression symptom severity. Cross-sectional results indicate that after controlling for age, sex, depression symptoms, (1) TB was significantly positively associated with death ideation, (2) PB was significantly positively associated with suicide ideation, and (3) the two-way interaction of PB and TB was significantly positively associated with death ideation. Contrary to expectations, PB was not associated with death ideation after controlling for the covariates, and social hopelessness was not associated with suicide ideation after controlling for the covariates, PB and TB. Overall, the findings in this thesis suggest that interpersonal constructs may be associated with thoughts of suicide among community-dwelling older adults. Future research may investigate interpersonal processes in clinical intervention studies, or whether public health interventions targeting perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness have an impact on the prevention of suicide.

DM Thesis 03 03 2016 REVISED FINAL.pdf (1108 kB)
Revised Thesis and final submission


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