A series of 44 consecutive elderly, admitted to a busy general hospital following deliberate self-poisoning, is reviewed for associated medical and psychosocial factors. In all but 3 cases the act involved an overdose of drugs prescribed for the treatment of a chronic medical and/or psychiatric disorder. Women outnumbered men by 2.7 to 1. There was high proportion of chronic psychiatric (80%, mostly depressive) and medical (60%) conditions. Chronic stress from the physical illness, social isolation, or tacit family conflict were common and seemed instrumental in the self-poisoning act. Most attempts were carried out around the weekend and during winter. One man succumbed to complications of the overdose but the rest of the patients recovered. Psychosocial (especially depressive) and medical vulnerability, plus availability of prescribed drugs, were the most important determinants of suicidal behavior among these elderly attempters
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