Associations of suicidality with cognitive ability and cognitive insight in outpatients with Schizophrenia

Schizophr Res. 2018 Feb:192:340-344. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2017.06.013. Epub 2017 Jun 24.


Background: Previous literature suggests that better cognitive ability and insight are associated with greater lifetime risk of suicide attempts in schizophrenia, counter to the direction of association in the general population. However, the conjoint association between distinct cognitive domains, insight, and suicidality has not been assessed.

Method: In a cross-sectional study, 162 adults with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder completed cognitive testing via the MATRICS battery, symptom and cognitive insight assessments, along with the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale. We then contrasted participants based on history of suicidality by cognitive domains and insight measures and conducted multivariate analyses.

Results: Although a history of any passive ideation was not associated with cognitive ability or insight, verbal learning was positively associated with a greater history of suicidal attempt and prior ideation with a plan and intent. Higher cognitive insight, and the self-reflectiveness subscale insight, was also associated with history of passive or active suicidal ideation. Cognitive insight and cognitive ability were independent from each other, and there were no moderating influences of insight on the effect of cognitive ability on suicide related history. Exploratory analyses revealed that history of planned attempts were associated with greater verbal learning, whereas histories of aborted attempts were associated with poorer reasoning and problem-solving.

Implications: Although cross-sectional and retrospective, this study provides support that greater cognitive ability, specifically verbal learning, along with self-reflectiveness, may confer elevated risk for more severe suicidal ideation and behavior in an independent fashion. Interestingly, poorer problem-solving was associated with aborted suicide attempts.

Keywords: Cognitive ability; Cognitive insight; Schizoaffective disorder; Schizophrenia; Suicidality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Outpatients*
  • Psychometrics
  • Schizophrenia / complications*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Young Adult