Hopelessness and positive and negative future thinking in parasuicide


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Andrew MacLeod, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham Hill, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, UK (e-mail: a.macleod@rhul.ac.uk).


Objectives. Hopelessness about the future is a key element in suicidal behaviour. The aim of the present study was to examine possible components of hopelessness, in particular, to contrast positive and negative future thinking and to examine separately number, expectancy, and value of anticipated positive and negative future experiences.

Design. A correlational design.

Method. Repeat parasuicide patients (N=441) were administered the Beck Hopelessness Scale, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and the future thinking task, a measure of future positive and negative thinking that assesses number, perceived likelihood, and perceived value of anticipated future positive and negative events.

Results. Consistent with predictions, hopelessness correlated more strongly with lack of positive thoughts about the future than it did with presence of negative thoughts. Both positive and negative future thinking showed a relationship to hopelessness over and above their relationships to depression (positive future thinking) and anxiety (negative future thinking). Number and likelihood of positive events and likelihood and value of negative events showed both simple and partial relationships to hopelessness. Number of negative events related to hopelessness but only after the other future thinking variables had been controlled for and value of positive events no longer related to hopelessness after controlling for the other variables

Conclusions. Hopelessness about the future in suicidal individuals is a multi-faceted construct but lack of positive future thinking is more important than presence of negative future thinking.