Socio-Economic Change: The Demographic Theory of Elderly Suicide

Go Lean Commentary

CU Blog - Socio-Economic Change and Demographic Theory of Elderly Suicide - Photo 2This purpose of the book Go Lean … Caribbean is to elevate the economic engines in the region. However, these commentaries have focused, numerous times on social and socio-economic issues; in this case, focus is given to the threat of suicides.

This seems out-of-scope!

The book and accompanying blogs posit that socio- economic factors must be accounted for in the roadmap to optimize and improve this society. In fact, the book lists 144 missions for the imminent Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), but one of them is an advocacy against suicides. This is identified on Page 36 under the title:

10 Ways to Promote Happiness … in the Caribbean Region

On the surface, it would appear as if promoting happiness would be so easy to do in the region of the world that is arguably “the greatest address on the planet”. Yet, the country with the highest suicide rate has been identified as Caribbean member-state Guyana.

This does not compute! Such a crisis amidst such beauty! The conclusion in the book is that the deficiency – contributing to suicides – is economic, jobs in particular. As the book declares that a man/woman needs three things to be happy:

  1. something to do,
  2. someone to love, and
  3. something to hope for.

The Go Lean roadmap does feature – in its scope – the societal deficiencies that could propel an increase in suicides. This is highlighted by the CU’s prime directives, as described by these statements:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines and mitigate challenges/threats to ensure public safety for the region’s stakeholders.
  • Improvement of Caribbean governance, including a separation-of-powers with member-states, to support these engines.

This commentary is not a re-harsh of the same suicide-driving issues as previously addressed, but rather an exploration of the socio-economic issues associated with the elderly in society. This commentary is the 2nd in a 3-part series on the art-and-science of analyzing socio-economic changes; other commentaries depict …

1. the manifestation of socio-economic changes in everyday life – values, habits and nuances, looking across a timeline from the 1960’s versus today and also …

3. the use-and-abuse of economic impact analyses on community investments.

Within this series, the field of socio-economics is defined as the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how societies progress, stagnate, or regress because of the local, regional or global economy. This commentary though, considers an academic study that examined the demographic population of the elderly and summarized that the logical conclusions of the root causes of suicide are different for this population. Consider the Abstract, here, of the Research Paper from the University of Nairobi (Kenya):

Title: Towards a Socio-Economic and Demographic Theory of Elderly Suicide: A Comparison of 49 Countries at various stages of development
By: Kiemo, Karatu
(Source: University of Nairobi (Kenya) Academic Research; Posted (2004; Retrieved 10-15-2014 from:

Abstract: D. Cowgill found out that the role and status of the elderly declined with modernization, but in contradiction G. Hammarström found out that what actually affected the role and status of the elderly during modernization was the rate at which modernization occurred.

From current studies, it can be insinuated that the transformation from socialist to market economies has too affected the role and status of the elderly adversely. In all, the social condition following on the above changes in productive, organizational and demographic structures connects with what E. Durkheim found to cause imbalance in social integration, and therefore could aggravate elders’ rate of suicide.

Using data from 49 developing and developed countries for the period around 1995, elderly suicide rates and elderly/non-elderly suicide ratio are examined in light of the extent and direction of socio-economic development; and in light of the extent of demographic transition and elderly population’s gender structure. Results show that the direction of socioeconomic change impacts differentially on elderly suicide rates, the rates in regressing economies being appreciably higher than in progressing economies. However, the impact of socio-economic trends on the elderly/non-elderly suicide ratio was not clear-cut.

The extent of socio-economic change impacts differentially on elderly suicide rates, the distribution being curvilinear (inverted-U functional) rather than Cowgill’s linear hypothesis. The extent of socioeconomic change also impacts differentially on elderly/non-elderly suicide ratio in an inverse correlation rather than Cowgill’s hypothesized positive correlation. Whereas the results failed to conform to the structuration of Cowgill’s modernisation theory, the theory is deemed substantively relevant especially in explaining the extent to which the status of being elderly aggravates suicide in the context of contemporary developing countries.

In this regard, Riley’s concept of age-integration seems more appropriate than Durkheim’s social integration in explaining how older age aggravates suicide in an especial manner. The thesis in this study is that elderly suicide is a function of age-related role and status and regulated by dynamics of socio-economic and demographic structures. Culture too seems to play some role that is yet to be determined.


Full Study:

CU Blog - Socio-Economic Change and Demographic Theory of Elderly Suicide - Photo 1The Go Lean roadmap does not ignore the needs of the elderly, nor any mental health needs of the Caribbean community. Rather, the roadmap calls for the establishment of a regional sentinel, a federal Health Department, to monitor, manage and mitigate public health issues in the region, including mental health with the same prioritization (cancer, trauma, virus, immunizations).

The University of Nairobi study hypothesizes that the elderly tend to be more affected when society experiences rapid change! This is an acute alarm for the CU/Go Lean planners, as the roadmap does call for near-hyper-growth in a short period of 5 years. Therefore, this foregoing article calls for the region to double-down on its efforts to ensure the health mitigations are in place for this vulnerable group. The need for this awareness was identified early in the Go Lean book, in the opening pronouncement in the Declaration of Interdependence (Page 11), as follows:

ix.  Whereas the realities of healthcare and an aging population cannot be ignored and cannot be afforded without some advanced mitigation, the Federation must arrange for health plans to consolidate premiums of both healthy and sickly people across the wider base of the entire Caribbean population. The mitigation should extend further to disease management, wellness, mental health, obesity and smoking cessation programs.

The University of Nairobi study is a classic exercise in this field of socio-economics. The goal of a socio-economic study is generally to bring about socio-economic development, usually by improvements in metrics such as GDP, life expectancy, literacy, levels of employment, etc.  In many cases, socio-economists focus on the social impact of some sort of economic change. Examples of causes of socio-economic impacts include new technologies such as cars or mobile phones, changes in laws, changes in the physical environment (such as increasing crowding within cities), and ecological changes (such as prolonged drought or declining fish stocks). These may affect patterns of consumption, the distribution of incomes and wealth, the way in which people behave (both in terms of purchase decisions and the way in which they choose to spend their time), and their overall quality of life.

The Go Lean … Caribbean roadmap constitutes a change for the region, a plan to consolidate 30 member-states into a Trade Federation with the tools/techniques to bring immediate change to the region to benefit one and all member-states. The roadmap calls for the coordination of the region’s (mental) healthcare needs at a CU federal agency. Though there is a separation-of-powers mandate between the member-states and federal agencies, the CU can still wield influence in this area due to funding accountabilities, (strings attached). The Go Lean roadmap details a monitoring and metering responsibility between the CU and the member-states; so there will be some federal compliance and regulatory oversight. This empowerment would also allow for better coordination with international stakeholders – like the World Health Organization (WHO) – and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – there are many that cater to the needs of the elderly, just consider the VIDEO in the Appendix below.

For the Caribbean, we will not want our elderly population “checking out” from society! We love them too much and they have endured far more that they should have; see VIDEO below. The “happiness mandate” identified at the start, is presented in the book as a “community ethos” (Page 20), the definition of which follows here:

… the fundamental character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that informs the beliefs, customs, or practices of a group or society; the dominant assumptions of a people or period.

The book details that there must first be adoption of such a community ethos plus the executions of the following strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to impact the region’s public health:

Community Ethos – Deferred Gratification Page 21
Community Ethos – Economics Influence Choices Page 21
Community Ethos – Privacy versus Public Protection Page 23
Community Ethos – “Crap” Happens Page 23
Community Ethos – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Cooperatives Page 24
Community Ethos – Non-Government Organizations Page 25
Community Ethos – Ways to Improve Sharing Page 35
Community Ethos – Ways to Promote Happiness Page 36
Community Ethos – Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Vision – Confederate 30 Member-States Page 45
Strategy – Mission – Reform our Health Care Response Page 47
Strategy – Agents of Change – Aging Diaspora Page 57
Tactical – Fostering a Technocracy Page 64
Separation of Powers – Department of Health Page 86
Implementation – Ways to Deliver Page 109
Planning – Ways to Model the EU Page 130
Planning – Ways to Make the Caribbean Better Page 131
Planning – Ways to Measure Progress Page 148
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Healthcare Page 156
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Cancer Page 157
Advocacy – Ways to Better Manage the Social Contract Page 170
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Cooperatives Page 176
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Emergency Management Page 196
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Elder-Care Page 225
Appendix – Disease Management – Healthways Model Page 300
Appendix – Trauma Center Definitions Page 336

This Go Lean book asserts that there is a direct correlation of physical/mental health issue with the economy. This viewpoint has been previously detailed in Go Lean blog/commentaries, as sampled here:

Book Review: ‘The Protest Psychosis’
Guyana and Suriname Wrestle With High Rates of Suicides
Public Health Economics – The Cost of Cancer Drugs
Antibiotics Misuse Associated With Obesity Risk
Recessions and Public Health in the Caribbean Region
New Hope in the Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease

There is a place in the new Caribbean for the elderly populations. Granted, they may not be candidates for the highly-sought, high-multiplier STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) jobs, but nonetheless they are stakeholders in the Go Lean mission. Love of neighbor – the Greater Good – is why we do what we do!

This issue of suicide among the elderly, as discussed in the foregoing article is indicative of the need for better stewardship of the economy, security and governing engines in the Caribbean. This makes the region a better place to live, work, and play – for all: young and old.


Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!


Appendix VIDEO – “Honor the Elderly” (The Forgotten Ones)  –

Uploaded on Nov 5, 2009 – We must honor the elderly! We must treat the elderly with dignity, love and respect. How we treat the elderly is a reflection of who we are. We should treat them the way we would want to be treated when we grow old and feeble. Many elderly are full of wisdom and we can learn valuable lessons from them.
Music:  “On The Other Side Of Jordan” by Rabbit Easter Band (Google PlayeMusicAmazonMP3)

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