Low MoCA performances correlate with suicidal ideation in late-life depression

Psychiatry Res. 2021 Jul;301:113957. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2021.113957. Epub 2021 Apr 22.


Late-life depression remains an underdiagnosed clinical entity, mainly because the presence of cognitive impairment in the elderly leads clinicians to suspect dementia rather than depression. Our objective was to analyze the cognitive abilities of elderly depressed patients using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) in relation to the presence or absence of suicidal ideation. The MoCA, Beck Scale of Suicidal Ideation, Hamilton Anxiety Scale, and Hamilton Depression Scale were administered to 72 patients with a recent history of late life depression: 43 with suicidal ideation and 29 non-suicidal controls. The results show that suicidal patients demonstrated significantly worse performance on the MoCA total score and the delayed recall subtest in comparison to non-suicidal controls. In addition, after adjusting for age and depression, poorer performance on the MoCA total score correlated to the presence of suicidal ideation. We found that the MoCA total score is able to predict the presence of suicidal ideation in depressed elderly patients in a fair-to-good manner. As late-life depression is already established as a potential prodrome of dementia, longitudinal follow-up may determine whether depressed individuals with suicidal ideation are at higher risk of converting to dementia.

Keywords: Cognition; Depression; Elderly; MoCA; Screening; Suicidal ideation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognitive Dysfunction*
  • Depression
  • Humans
  • Mental Status and Dementia Tests
  • Suicidal Ideation*