COVID-19 and the Risk of Homicide-suicide among Older Adults

Year: 2021
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Ghossoub, E., Wakim, M.L.T. and Khoury, R.


On March 25, 2020, in Cambridge, United Kingdom, a 71-year-old man stabbed his 71-year-old wife before suffocating himself to death. The couple was reportedly anxious about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic lockdown measures and were on the verge of running out of food and medicine.

One week later, in Chicago, Illinois, a 54-year-old man shot and killed his female partner, age 54, before killing himself. The couple was tested for COVID-19 2 days earlier and the man believed they had contracted the virus; however, the test results for both of them had come back negative.

Intimate partner homicide-suicide is the most dramatic domestic abuse outcome. Homicide-suicide is defined as "homicide committed by a person who subsequently commits suicide within one week of the homicide. In most cases the subsequent suicide occurs within a 24-hour period." Approximately one-quarter of all homicide-suicides are committed by persons age [greater than or equal to]55 years. We believe that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of homicide-suicide among older adults may be increased due to several factors, including:

* physical distancing and quarantine measures. Protocols established to slow the spread of the virus may be associated with increased rates of depression and anxiety and an increased risk of suicide among older adults
* increased intimate partner violence
* increased firearm ownership rates in the United States.

In this article, we review studies that identified risk factors for homicide-suicide among older adults, discuss the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on these risks, and describe steps clinicians can take to intervene.
Current Psychiatry, 20(2), 14-19.

Subject Area



Murder,Suicide,Review,Homicide,COVID-19,Older Adults
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