The relationship between suicide ideation and late-life depression

Steven D. Vannoy, Paul Duberstein, Kelly Cukrowicz, Elizabeth Lin, Ming Yu Fan, Jürgen Unützer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To describe the course of suicide ideation (SI) in primary-care based late-life depression treatment, identify predictors of SI, characterize the dynamic relationship between depression and SI, and test the hypothesis that collaborative care decreases the likelihood of reporting SI by decreasing the severity of depressive symptoms. METHODS: This was a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial comparing collaborative care to usual care for late-life depression. Participants were 1,801 adults age 60 and older from eight diverse primary-care systems. Depression was measured using the Hopkins Symptoms Checklist (HSCL-20). SI was operationalized using one item from the HSCL-20. Predictors of incident SI were identified by a series of univariate analyses followed by multiple logistic regression. A mediator analysis was conducted to test the hypothesis that the effect of collaborative care on SI can be ascribed to the interventiong's effect on depressive symptoms. RESULTS: The prevalence of SI was 14% (N = 253); the cumulative incidence over 24 months was 21% (385). The likelihood that SI emerged after baseline was highly dependent on change in depression (odds ratio: 5.38, 95% confidence interval: 3.93-7.36, df = 81, t = 10.66, p <0.0001). As hypothesized, the effect of collaborative care on SI was mediated by the treatmentg's effect on depression. CONCLUSION: SI is not uncommon in depressed older adults being treated in primary care. The likelihood that depressed older adults will report SI is strongly determined by the course of their depression symptoms. Providers should monitor SI throughout the course of depression treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1024-1033
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Depression
  • Geriatric
  • Suicide


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