Examining affective reactivity as a link between suicidality and social disconnection

J Psychiatr Res. 2023 Jan:157:271-275. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2022.12.008. Epub 2022 Dec 12.


The link between suicidality and social disconnection is well-established. We explored possible mechanisms that may account for this link using a positive and negative valence systems framework in a clinical sample with and without suicidality (i.e., suicidal ideation and/or behaviors in the past month). Participants (N = 228) interacted with a trained confederate during a controlled conversation task designed to generate social affiliation. Participant-rated positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA) were collected during the task (baseline, anticipation, post). Participant-rated desire for future interaction was collected after the task. We tested if (1) groups with (n = 82) and without (n = 146) suicidality differed in affect during the task and (2) whether affect accounted for the link between suicidality and desire for future interaction. Results revealed that groups differed in PA, but not NA, throughout the task. Participants with suicidality reported no significant changes in PA over the task (ps > .05); and, experienced less PA at post-task compared to those without (p = .003, d = 0.38) whereas participants without suicidality reported increased PA at post-task compared to baseline and anticipation of the task, ps < .001. Mediation analysis suggested blunted post-task PA accounted for the relationship between suicidality and less desire for future interaction, 95%CI [-2.59,-0.51]. Diminished PA reactivity during social affiliation opportunities may help explain the link between suicidality and social disconnection. Preliminary findings highlight PA as a potential mechanistic target for improving social connection for individuals at risk for suicide, though prospective and experimental research is needed.

Keywords: Dyadic interaction; Negative emotions; Positive emotions; Social connection; Suicide.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide* / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology