Impulsivity and hopelessness as predictors of suicide-related ideation among older adults

Eva Neufeld, Norm O'Rourke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Objective: Research has demonstrated that impulsivity is strongly associated with suicide-related ideation and behaviour among young adults. However, to date, the potential importance of impulsivity as a predictor of suicide-related ideation in later life has yet to be determined. Our study examined impulsivity, hopelessness, depressive symptomatology, and sociodemographic factors vis-à-vis suicide-related ideation among older adults at risk of self-harm. Method: A sample (n = 117) of older adults was recruited from multiple sources for this study over a 1-year period. Suicide-related ideation was measured with the Geriatric Suicide Ideation Scale, a multidimensional measure of suicide-related ideation developed for use with older adults. Results: Canonical correlation identified 2 pairings of linear composites in which impulsivity emerged along both as significantly associated with facets of suicide-related ideation. Of note, the greater proportion of variance in impulsivity was subsumed along the second set of vectors with somatic depressive symptoms. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that the impulse to self-harm may be even more pronounced among older adults less likely to present as typically depressed. It is further suggested that impulsivity is more broadly associated with suicide-related ideation than hopelessness, and that screening for impulsivity as well as hopelessness may increase clinicians' ability to identify older adults at greatest risk of self-harm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)684-692
Number of pages9
JournalCanadian Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Elderly
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsivity
  • Suicide-related ideation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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