A Project of the University of Pennsylvania and the John Templeton Foundation

Future orientation and suicide ideation and attempts in depressed adults ages 50 and over

Published: September, 2006

Investigator(s): Other Investigator(s)

Researcher(s): Hirsch, J. K., Duberstein, P. R., Conner, K. R., Heisel, M. J., Beckman, A., Franus, N., & Conwell, Y.



The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that future orientation is associated with lower levels of suicide ideation and lower likelihood of suicide attempt in a sample of patients in treatment for major depression.


Two hundred two participants (116 female, 57%) ages 50–88 years were recruited from inpatient and outpatient settings. All were diagnosed with major depression using a structured diagnostic interview. Suicide ideation was assessed with the Scale for Suicide Ideation (both current and worst point ratings), and a measure of future orientation was created to assess future expectancies. The authors predicted that greater future orientation would be associated with less current and worst point suicide ideation, and would distinguish current and lifetime suicide attempters from nonattempters. Hypotheses were tested using multivariate logistic regression and linear regression analyses that accounted for age, gender, hopelessness, and depression.


As hypothesized, higher future orientation scores were associated with lower current suicidal ideation, less intense suicidal ideation at its worst point, and lower probability of a history of attempted suicide after accounting for covariates. Future orientation was not associated with current attempt status.


Future orientation holds promise as a cognitive variable associated with decreased suicide risk; a better understanding of its putative protective role is needed. Treatments designed to enhance future orientation might decrease suicide risk.

JTF grant funded: No