Current wishes to die; characteristics of middle-aged and older Dutch adults who are ready to give up on life: a cross-sectional study

Roosmarijne M. K. Kox*, H. Roeline W. Pasman, Martijn Huisman, Wim Benneker, Bregje D. Onwuteaka-Philipsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background: Literature shows that middle-aged and older adults sometimes experience a wish to die. Reasons for these wishes may be complex and involve multiple factors. One important question is to what extent people with a wish to die have medically classifiable conditions. Aim: (1) Estimate the prevalence of a current wish to die among middle-aged and older adults in The Netherlands; (2) explore which factors within domains of vulnerability (physical, cognitive, social and psychological) are associated with a current wish to die; (3) assess how many middle-aged and older adults with a current wish to die do not have a medically classifiable condition and/or an accumulation of age-related health problems. Methods: Data of 2015/16 from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam were used for this cross-sectional study (1563 Dutch middle-aged and older adults aged between 57 and 99 years), obtained through structured medical interviews and self-reported questionnaires. Three experienced physicians assessed whether the participants with a current wish to die could be classified as having a medically classifiable condition and/or an accumulation of age-related health problems. Results: N = 62 participants (4.0%) had a current wish to die. Having a current wish to die was associated with multiple characteristics across four domains of vulnerability, among which: self-perceived health, problems with memory, self-perceived quality of life and meaningfulness of life. Fifty-four participants with a current wish to die were assessed with having a medically classifiable condition, of which one was also assessed with having an accumulation of age-related health problems. Six people were assessed to have neither, and for two people it was unclear. Conclusion: A small minority of middle-aged and older adults in the Netherlands have a current wish to die. Most of them can be classified with a medical condition and one person with an accumulation of age-related health problems. Furthermore, the findings show that having a current wish to die is multi-faceted. There is still a need for more knowledge, such as insight in to what extent suffering stemming from the medical classifiable disease contributes to the development of the wish to die.
Original languageEnglish
Article number64
JournalBMC Medical Ethics
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

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