Objectives: This study examined whether older people who were depressed or had engaged in parasuicidal behaviour could be identified by a decrease in positive future-directed thinking in the absence of any increase in negative future-directed thinking, in comparison with a community control group.
Design: A mixed design was used that compared three groups (community controls, depressed controls and parasuicidal participants) in terms of future-directed thinking (positive and negative), in relation to three future time periods (one week, one year and 5-10 years).
Methods: In all, 22 participants over 65 years of age, who had been admitted to hospital following a non-fatal suicidal act, were compared with 22 older people being treated for depression and 22 older community volunteers who were not experiencing any significant psychological symptoms. The main measure was an adaptation of the traditional verbal fluency paradigm and attempted to quantify future-directed thinking.
Results: Parasuicidal and depressed participants showed decreased positive future thinking, but no increase in negative future thinking, in comparison with the community control group.
Conclusions: The results confirm that older parasuicidal and older depressed participants are characterized by a reduction in positive anticipation and that this may be accounted for by depression rather than hopelessness.