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A scoping review exploring the 'grey area' of suicide-related expression in later life: Developing a conceptual framework for professional engagement

Hafford-Letchfield, T., Jain, B. ORCID: 0000-0002-9149-5082, Gleeson, H. , Roesch, C. & Ellmers, T. (2022). A scoping review exploring the 'grey area' of suicide-related expression in later life: Developing a conceptual framework for professional engagement. Ageing & Society, doi: 10.1017/S0144686X22000642


As the body of research on suicide in later life has developed, so has its vocabulary. This has generated a high level of overlap in concepts and terminology used to articulate suicide and how it might present, as well as ‘grey area’ behavioural terms that are both specific to older adults and less well-defined (e.g. ‘hastening of death’ or ‘completed life’). A better understanding of individual experiences and pathways to suicide can help to inform assessment and interventions, and increase the potential to relate any theoretical concepts to the implementation of such. Here, we adopted a scoping review to search systematically literature on specific presentation, features, circumstances and outcomes of these grey areas of suicide in later life. Fifty-three articles (quantitative, qualitative and theoretical) were reviewed. A narrative approach was used to merge and translate this body of knowledge into a new conceptual framework based on four key themes: (a) a sense of completed life or existential loneliness; (b) death thoughts, wishes and ideation; (c) death-hastening behaviour and advanced directives; and (d) self-destructive or self-injurious behaviour. We discuss the importance of integrating this understanding into current knowledge and suicide prevention strategies for older adults. Recommendations are made for unifying research with policy themes on healthy ageing, person-centredness within service provision and citizen participation.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited. Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press
Publisher Keywords: ageing, older adults, suicide, scoping review, conceptual framework, wish to die
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

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