Role of Hopelessness in Suicidal Ideation Among Patients With Depressive Disorders

Objective: The cognitive theory of suicide postulates that hopelessness is an essential precondition for suicidal ideation in patients with depressive disorder . However, the explanatory power and predictive value of hopelessness for suicidal ideation remain uncertain.

Methods: From 1997 to 2007, patients with depressive disorder who were cohorts from the Vantaa Depression Studies (n = 406) completed the Scale for Suicide Ideation (SSI), Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), Perceived Social Support Scale–Revised (PSSS-R), and Eysenck Personality Inventory–Q (EPI-Q) at baseline, 6 and 18 months, and 5 years. We conducted a mixed-effects generalized linear regression and clustered receiver-operating characteristics analysis to test how well BDI and BHS predict severe suicidal ideation within and between patients.

Results: BHS predicted clinically significant suicidal ideation (odds ratio [OR] = 2.8), explaining 13.1% of between-patient and and 3.5% of within-patient variance of SSI. Adjusting for the fixed effect of BDI removed a substantial part of the effect of BHS on SSI (adjusted OR = 1.38, P = .018). BAI moderated the effect of BHS on SSI, whereas EPI-Q and PSSS-R did not. BDI detected suicidal ideation more accurately (area under the receiver-operating characteristics curve [AUC] = 0.846) than BHS (AUC = 0.754).

Conclusions: In patients with depressive disorder, hopelessness explains suicidal ideation, but largely because it covaries with depressive symptoms. The role of hopelessness as a central determinant of suicidal ideation in depression may have been overestimated. Symptoms of anxiety moderate the association between hopelessness and suicidal ideation. Severity of depressive symptoms may predict suicidal ideation more accurately than hopelessness.

J Clin Psychiatry 2020;81(2):19m12866

https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.19m12866