Perceived Burdensomeness in Older Adults and Perceptions of Burden on Spouses and Children

Danielle R. Jahn, Kimberly A. van Orden, Kelly C. Cukrowicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Older adults are at high risk for suicide, and perceived burdensomeness is an important suicide risk factor in this population. Additionally, previous research indicates that older adults feel like a burden on their spouses most often, though perceptions of burden on younger generations were associated with greater overall perceived burdensomeness. The current study sought to clarify this complex pattern of results, and found that perceptions of burden on a spouse were linked to the most severe form of perceived burdensomeness-belief that others would be better off if one were gone-though perceptions of burden on a child were not significantly associated with this most severe form of perceived burdensomeness in the current sample. These results indicate that older adults' perceptions of burdensomeness on a spouse may be especially harmful. Clinical implications, including the need to assess not only whether older adults perceive themselves to be a burden on others, but also who is perceived to be burdened, and the importance of targeting perceived burdensomeness through cognitive restructuring, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-459
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Gerontologist
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2013


  • familial relationships
  • interpersonal theory of suicide
  • older adults
  • perceived burdensomeness


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