Zolpidem as a high risk factor for elderly suicide in South Korea

Eun Kim, Jae Hee Lee, Duk Hee Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Backgrounds: South Korea, a nation with rapidly aging population, has the highest suicide rates in the world, and the elderly have a suicide rate three times higher than the national average. We classified the drugs ingested for suicide attempts by age groups and compare the clinical outcomes between non-elderly and elderly patients who attempted suicide by ingesting drugs. Materials and methods: Data were obtained from the nationwide Emergency Department-Based Injury Surveillance of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, South Korea between January 2011 and December 2016. Results: There were 12,104 patients who attempted suicide by ingesting drugs, of whom the elderly (73.5%) ingested more sedatives and hypnotics than the non-elderly (53.9%); of these drugs, zolpidem ingestion was higher in the elderly than the non-elderly. Conversely, the non-elderly ingested more antipsychotics and antidepressants (15.9%) and analgesics (10.8%) than the elderly (7.4% and 2.8%, respectively). The elderly had longer hospital stay, higher intensive care unit (ICU) admission rate, and higher mortality rate than the non-elderly: more elderly patients (30.2%) were admitted to the ICU than the non-elderly (15.7%); the duration of hospital stays was 6.27 ± 11.35 days in the elderly and 8.94 ± 14.85 days in the non-elderly; and the mortality rate was 0.4% in the non-elderly and 3.0% in the elderly. Conclusion: Findings suggest that zolpidem has become the greatest risk factor for the elderly Koreans in suicide attempts. Further prevention efforts are needed to prevent suicide among the elderly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-845
Number of pages15
JournalArchives of Suicide Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 International Academy for Suicide Research.


  • Elderly
  • emergency department
  • hypnotics
  • sedatives
  • suicide
  • zolpidem


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