Cognitive-existential characteristics and their relationship to suicide ideation in college students and the elderly
Vannice, Jeff L
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Efforts to prevent suicidal behavior might be enhanced by performing research that focuses on increasing the understanding of suicidal ideation. This study sought to predict suicide ideation from, and to establish its relationship with, various cognitive factors that might comprise a "cognitive profile" of suicide ideation. Subjects consisted of 340 college students and 42 elderly persons--two groups that have been identified as sharing a high risk for suicide. Both samples completed a questionnaire assessing suicide acceptance, religiosity, and degree of suicide ideation. In addition, subjects completed the Purpose in Life Test, the Reasons for Living Inventory, the Rational Behavior Inventory, the Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale, and the Edwards Social Desirability Scale (SD). Analyses using the elderly data were limited by low sample size. Results indicated that college students were able to significantly distinguish between the frequency and seriousness of their suicidal ideation and among lifetime, past year, and past month time-frames, but not when SD was controlled. The college students were more accepting of suicide, less religious, had less purpose in life, endorsed fewer rational beliefs, and were more lonely than the elderly. Many of these differences became nonsignificant, however, when SD (on which the elderly scored significantly higher than the college students) was controlled. Among college students, the linear combination of purpose in life, suicide acceptance, survival and coping beliefs, and the fear of suicide accounted for 28H of the variance in a "general frequency" (OF) measure of suicide ideation when SD was controlled, and these cognitive variables predicted 43% of the variance in GF when covariation with SD was not controlled. Also among college students, suicide ideation was directly related to suicide acceptance, fear of suicide, and loneliness, and it was inversely related to purpose in life, survival and coping beliefs, responsibility to family, child-related concerns, and to overall reasons for living. Limitations of the study and recommendations for future research are discussed.