Year: 2023 Source: Journal of Affective Disorders. (2023). 335(1), 401-409. DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2023.05.050 SIEC No: 20231878

Background: Knowing how future-oriented repetitive thought – i.e., repeated consideration of whether positive or negative outcomes will happen in one’s future – leads to hopelessness-related cognitions may elucidate the role of anticipating the future in depressive symptoms and suicide ideation. This study examined future-event fluency and depressive predictive certainty – i.e., the tendency to make pessimistic future-event predictions with certainty – as mechanisms explaining the relation between future-oriented repetitive thought, depressive symptoms, and suicide ideation.

Methods: Young adults (N = 354), oversampled for suicide ideation or attempt history, completed baseline measures of pessimistic future-oriented repetitive thought (i.e., the degree to which people consider whether negative outcomes will happen or positive outcomes will not happen in their futures), future-event fluency, depressive predictive certainty, depressive symptoms, and suicide ideation severity and were followed up 6 months later (N = 324).

Results: Pessimistic future-oriented repetitive thought predicted depressive predictive certainty at 6-months, partially mediated by lower positive but not increased negative future-event fluency. There was an indirect relationship between pessimistic future-oriented repetitive thought and 6-month suicide ideation severity via 6-month depressive predictive certainty through 6-month depressive symptoms, and also via 6-month depressive symptoms (but not depressive predictive certainty) alone.

Limitations: Lack of an experimental design limits inferences about causality, and a predominantly female sample may limit generalizability by sex.

Conclusion: Clinical interventions should address pessimistic future-oriented repetitive thought – and its impact on how easily people can think about positive future outcomes – as one potential way to reduce depressive symptoms and, indirectly, suicide ideation.