Blame it on rapid economic and social changes but more and more senior citizens are taking their own lives, according to a recent study.
University of the Philippines Professor Clarita Carlos said this in her pioneering book “Population Ageing in the Philippines, Issues and Challenges.”
Carlos cited statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, saying contrary to belief that older people enjoy emotional stability and well-being because of their age, the rapid social and economic changes have made them feel isolated and thus prone to depression, leading them to commit suicide.
Her book was published in partnership with SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Prime.
World Health Organization (WHO)/EURO Multicenter Study of Suicidal Behavior in 13 European countries revealed that the average suicide rate among people who are older than 65 years at 29.3/100,000 and suicide attempt rates, 61.4/100,000.
While there is little data on the incidence of suicide among older people in the Philippines, Carlos noted that the figure has been steadily increasing for the past several years.
National Statistics Office records showed that from 1984 to 2005, suicide rate went up from 0.46 to 7 for every 200,000 for men and 0.24 to 2 for every 200,000 for women.
The suicide rate in the Philippines is 2.5 for men and 1.7 for women (per 100,000 population), according to the Department of Health’s National Center for Mental Health.
The WHO placed the worldwide average for suicides at 10.7 percent per 100,000.
The lower figure, Carlos said, may have been caused by under-reporting because taking one’s life is considered taboo especially for a predominantly Catholic country like the Philippines.
“Elderly suicide is a fast growing trend in the world’s richest economy but it is also positively ignored.
Industrialization and modernization have disrupted traditional family dynamics. As younger people migrate to cities and join highly competitive worlds, they may lose the desire to live and care for their parents in their old age. This leaves many of them [parents]to fall into depression,” she added.
Carlos said suicide is the biggest challenge among the elderly and the figure will continue to increase over the years as the population of older people will continue to grow.
She added that the ageing of the population has become a challenge not just for developed countries but also developing countries like the Philippines.
The number of older persons is projected to grow by 56 percent from 901 million in 2015 to 1.4 billion in 2030.
By year 2030, the population of older persons will be more than the number of children aged 0-9 years with 1.4 billion for the former and 1.3 billion for the latter.
“The ageing of our population is unprecedented. A combination of decreasing fertility rates and the increasing life expectancy has produced an ageing population. People are living longer because of advances in medicine, better nutrition, better health care, better education and overall well-being of society,” Carlos said.
It is therefore important, she added, that the government, the private sector and all stakeholders work hand in hand in making sure that the needs and aspirations of older people are met in the light of the various challenges and implications of an ageing population.
In taking part in the book’s publication, SM Prime President Jeffrey Lim explained that SM has always believed in the inclusivity of services that should cater not just to the young but the old as well.
“There has been a lot of focus on understanding millennials but very little about senior citizens. It is about time that we give attention to our elders as well. With the ageing population, it has become necessary that we give them respect and dignity to pursue a life of fulfillment in their sunset years,” Lim said.