HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.


Background We aimed to characterize the prevalence of social disconnection and thoughts of suicide among older adults in the United States, and examine the association between them in a large naturalistic study. Methods We analyzed data from 6 waves of a fifty-state non-probability survey among US adults conducted between February and December 2021. The internet-based survey collected the PHQ-9, as well as multiple measures of social connectedness. We applied multiple logistic regression to analyze the association between presence of thoughts of suicide and social disconnection. Exploratory analysis, using generalized random forests, examined heterogeneity of effects across sociodemographic groups. Results Of 16,164 survey respondents age 65 and older, mean age was 70.9 (SD 5.0); the cohort was 61.4 % female and 29.6 % male; 2.0 % Asian, 6.7 % Black, 2.2 % Hispanic, and 86.8 % White. A total of 1144 (7.1 %) reported thoughts of suicide at least several days in the prior 2 week period. In models adjusted for sociodemographic features, households with 3 or more additional members (adjusted OR 1.73, 95 % CI 1.28–2.33) and lack of social supports, particularly emotional supports (adjusted OR 2.60, 95 % CI 2.09–3.23), were independently associated with greater likelihood of reporting such thoughts, as was greater reported loneliness (adjusted OR 1.75, 95 % CI 1.64–1.87). The effects of emotional support varied significantly across sociodemographic groups. Conclusions Thoughts of suicide are common among older adults in the US, and associated with lack of social support, but not with living alone.


Solomonov, Nili, Jon Green, Alexi Quintana, Jennifer Lin, Katherine Ognyanova, Mauricio Santillana, James N. Druckman, Matthew A. Baum, David Lazer, Faith M. Gunning, and Roy H. Perlis. "A 50-state survey study of thoughts of suicide and social isolation among older adults in the United States." Journal of Affective Disorders 334 (1 August 2023): 43-49.