The relation between hopelessness and suicide attempts in the elderly
was examined by studying the course of hopelessness in depressed patients.
Sixty-three elderly patients with recurrent major depression were treated
with nortriptyline and interpersonal psychotherapy and underwent serial
ratings of hopelessness and depression during the acute and continuation
phases of treatment. Patients who had made a suicide attempt in the past
had significantly higher hopelessness scores than nonattempters during both
phases of treatment. They were also more likely to drop out of treatment. A
high degree of hopelessness persisting after remission of depression in
elderly patients appears to be associated with a history of suicidal
behavior. It may also increase the likelihood of premature discontinuation
of treatment and lead to future suicide attempts or suicide.