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Original Research

Long-Term Suicidal Ideation Profiles in Late-Life Depression and Their Association With Suicide Attempt or Death by Suicide

Hanga Galfalvy, PhDa,b,*; Anna Szücs, MDc; Ya-Wen Chang, MAd; Morgan Buerke, BSe; and Katalin Szanto, MDd

Published: February 15, 2023


Objective: In young and middle-aged adults, suicidal ideation is an important predictor of prospective suicide attempts, but its predictive power in late life remains unclear. In this study, we used Latent Profile Analysis (LPA) in a cohort of depressed older adults to identify distinct ideation profiles and their clinical correlates and test their association with risk of suicidal behavior longitudinally.

Methods: A total of 337 depressed older adults (aged 50–93 years) were assessed for suicidal ideation and behavior for up to 14 years (median = 3 years), at least once per year (study period: 2002–2020). LPA was used, which derived 4 profiles of ideation scores based on subject-level aggregates. Groups were compared using analysis of variance (ANOVA) and χ2 tests at baseline and competing risk survival analysis during follow-up.

Results: Ideation showed significant decline over time, on average (P < .001). LPA identified 4 suicidal ideation profiles. Risk of suicide attempt/death was higher for chronic severe ideators (age-adjusted hazard ratio [HR] = 5.75; 95% CI, 2.25–14.7; P < .001) and highly variable ideators (HR = 3.21; 95% CI, 1.03–10.1; P = .045) compared to fast-remitting ideators, despite comparable current ideation severity at baseline. Fast-remitting ideators had higher risk than low/non-ideators with no attempts or suicides (P < .001). Chronic severe ideators displayed the most severe dysfunction across personality, social characteristics, and impulsivity measures, whereas highly variable and fast-remitting ideators displayed specific deficits.

Conclusions: Assessing suicidal ideation over months/years has clinical relevance, as it enabled the identification of distinct ideation patterns associated with substantive differences in clinical presentation and risk of future suicidal behavior despite similar ideation levels at baseline.

Volume: 84

Quick Links: Depression (MDD)

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