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J Affect Disord. 2001 Oct;66(2-3):123-31.

Emotion traits in older suicide attempters and non-attempters.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, 300 Crittenden Boulevard, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.



Emotion is a flourishing area of cross-disciplinary research that can inform traditional approaches to psychopathology. The present study examines emotion traits associated with attempted suicide in a depressed older sample.


Seven emotion traits were compared in depressed inpatients, age 50 years or older, who either had made a suicide attempt after age 50 (n=47) or had never made a suicide attempt (n=38) as assessed by self-report and a review of available medical records.


In univariate analyses controlled for age and sex, late-life suicide attempters were lower in Warmth and Positive Emotions than non-attempters. However, only lower Anxiety was associated with attempter status when all seven emotion traits were included as predictors. Of the attempters, those who had made a greater number of attempts reported lower Positive Emotions and higher Anger/Hostility and Guilt, though only lower Positive Emotions had a significant effect independent of the other emotions. In a subsample of 41 patients whose index admission was precipitated by an attempt, lower Anger/Hostility was associated with higher intent to die, and lower Anger/Hostility and lower Guilt was associated with higher lethality of method.


The assessments of emotion traits may have been colored by transient moods, including, for the recent attempters, moods associated with the aftermath of their attempt. Participants who completed the key measures may not be representative of older attempters.


Emotion traits are associated with suicidal behavior in older depressed patients, and the specific type of emotion and the direction of its association depends on the specific suicide variable examined. Emotion traits may be helpful in assessing suicide risk.

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