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TILDA secures prestigious funding from the US

We are delighted to announce that a team of researchers from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), Trinity College Dublin, have been awarded new research funding from the U.S. National Institute of Health.

This important work will help researchers learn more about the growing public health issue of suicidal thoughts and social disconnection among older adults. Importantly, social disconnection is a multifaceted concept and both the amount (social isolation) and quality (loneliness) of people’s social relationships are strongly linked to both suicide ideation and subsequent suicide attempts. However, while the link between social disconnection and suicide is becoming clearer, the reasons are not well understood.

This study will use the rich data collected from TILDA, a large cohort of older adults, since 2009 to identify the range of factors associated with social disconnection and suicidal thoughts and other outcomes.

Specifically, the study will:

  • identify who is at highest risk of social disconnection and suicidal thoughts among older adults as well as when individuals are most at risk;
  • examine the nature of the associations between social disconnection and suicidal ideation: and,
  • identify the main risk and protective factors.

The results of this study will help in the development of effective clinical and community-based interventions, both nationally and internationally, by which the train of thoughts leading to active suicidal ideation can be stopped before individuals progress to active ideation and suicidal behaviour.

Of the new funding award, Principal Investigator, Dr Mark Ward, said,

“Improvements in our environment and medical advances mean that many countries have increasingly older populations. Indeed, Ireland now has the highest life expectancy in the European Union. While this is obviously great news, it also brings many challenges. Among these, an increasing number older adults now experience social isolation and loneliness, which have been shown to be damaging to both physical and psychological well-being.”

He continued,

“Social disconnection is also in some cases associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviours and it is therefore critical that we understand both the risk and protection factors driving this. This support from the National Institute of Health will help TILDA inform effective clinical and community-based interventions, both nationally and internationally, and helps cements TILDA’s place as a world leader in supporting older adults to leave full and fruitful lives well into old age.”

Principal Investigator: Dr Mark Ward. Co- Investigators: Prof. Rose Anne Kenny; Dr Robert Briggs; Dr Aisling O’Halloran

NIH funding will support this work until December 2024.