Assessing suicide ideation among older adults: a systematic review of screening and measurement tools

Helen Gleeson, Chloe Roesch, Trish Hafford-Letchfield, Toby Ellmers

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Rates of suicide in older adults may be higher than reported due to poor understandings of presentation of suicide ideation in this group. The objectives of this paper were to (i) review current measurement tools designed for older adults to detect suicide ideation and (ii) assess their psychometric properties. We used a systematic review approach to identify measurement tools developed specifically for older adults without cognitive decline or impairment. Ten articles that reported on a total of seven different measurement tools were identified. These included tools that focused on resiliency to suicide and those that measured risk of suicide behavior. There was wide variation across the articles: some were adaptations of existing scales to suit older populations, others were developed by authors; they varied in length from four to 69 items; a range of settings was used, and there was a mix of self-report and clinician-administered measures. Most displayed good psychometric properties, with both approaches showing similar quality. Limitations in terms of samples, settings, and measurement design are discussed. The case for specific measures for older adults is clear from this review. There appear to be unique factors that should be considered in understanding suicide ideation and behavior among older adults that may not be directly assessed in non-specific measurements. However, there is a need to expand the diversity of individuals included in measurement development to ensure they are appropriate across gender, culture and minority status, and for the views of professionals to be considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Psychogeriatrics
Early online date19 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Nov 2021


  • screening
  • psychogeriatrics
  • scales
  • suicide
  • death and dying


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