What cognitive functions are associated with passive suicidal ideation? Findings from a national sample of community dwelling Israelis

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2009 May;24(5):472-8. doi: 10.1002/gps.2140.


Purpose: To identify the specific cognitive domains associated with passive suicidal ideation (e.g. thoughts of being better off dead).

Methods: A cross sectional, national based study of 1,712 individuals over the age of 50. Outcome measure, passive suicidal ideation, was evaluated by the question, 'in the past month, have you felt that you would rather be dead?', taken from the Euro-D. Cognitive domains assessed were time orientation, verbal learning, verbal recall, word fluency, and arithmetic.

Results: After adjusting for demographic and clinical information, those reporting passive suicidal ideation were significantly more likely to have impaired performance on the time orientation task. None of the other cognitive domains were associated with passive suicidal ideation.

Conclusions: Clinicians working with older adults need to be aware not only of demographic and clinical information, but also of cognitive functioning and more specifically, time orientation, as a potential determinant of passive suicidal ideation. Possibly, cognitive domains that are less affected by education and prior learning (e.g. time orientation) have a unique association with passive suicidal ideation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Cognition*
  • Demography
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Educational Status
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Israel / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Middle Aged
  • Orientation
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Thinking*
  • Verbal Behavior
  • Verbal Learning