The Correlation Between Depression & Suicidal Ideation with Empirical Data

At first glance, it seems like a no-brainer. Depression and suicidal ideation should go hand-in-hand. However, further analysis is required to validate the connection, if indeed one exists.

What is suicidal ideation? According to clinicians, suicidal ideation references a desire to take one’s life, wishing that one’s life would end, or harbouring thoughts of killing oneself or harming oneself.

The ideation – the planning and conceptualizing of the suicide, or suicidal thoughts – often predates the suicide attempt, or death by suicide. Of all the risk factors associated with suicide ideation, previous attempts at suicide are the strongest risk factors when it comes to death by suicide.

Relationship Between Depression and Suicidal Ideation

What Treatment Options Are Available to People with Depression?

It’s important to tackle depression as early on as possible. Once the mental health disorder takes root and starts burrowing deep into the patient’s psyche, it becomes difficult to control a major depressive episode. Treatments typically include a bifurcated approach such as medication (SNRIs and SSRIs) and therapy.

With major depressive disorder, this is not always effective, since treatment-resistant depression is a real phenomenon. In these cases, ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and non-surgical options may be considered, such as TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), involving the use of electromagnetic headgear with treatment regimens 5 days a week (20 minute sessions for 4 – 6 weeks.)

The efficacy of has to be assessed on a patient to patient basis, with close coordination between the patient and the mental health counselor, or psychiatrist. Mental illness is regarded as a major cause of suicide among young people, so it’s imperative that the issues are tackled head-on, especially if signs of depression are evident.

Relationship Between Depression and Suicidal Ideation

Major Study into Depressive Disorder & Suicidal Ideation

To tackle this issue, a major study was conducted comprising 5 Chinese and English electronic databases. These included the following: PubMed, Wanfang, Weipu, Chinese Web of Knowledge, and EBSCO. A broad cross-section of data (between 2000 – 2016) was researched, with documented associations between suicidal ideation and depressive symptoms among university students in China. Meta-analysis was conducted with StatsDirect3.

Some 513 references were identified and 44 studies were used. In total, some 88,431 participants displaying depressive symptoms were identified in the study with a 95% confidence interval in results. Overall, it was found that, ‘a moderate association between depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation among university students exists in China.’

The study is important insofar as it identifies depression as a contributing factor for suicidal ideation. It is therefore important to clearly and categorically identify depressive symptoms in order to nip suicidal ideation in the bud. This particular study was conducted in China with college students. Experts stress that there are biological and environmental elements contributing to suicidal ideation as well.

Relationship Between Depression and Suicidal Ideation

A Case Study from Japan

Additional studies were conducted in Japan, under the guidance of Dr Takeaki Takeuchi and Mutshuhiro Nakao in a research paper titled, ‘The relationship between suicidal ideation and symptoms of depression in Japanese workers: a cross-sectional study.’ On the face of it, the researchers acknowledged an unknown prevalence of suicidal ideation and predictors thereof with Japanese workers.

This particular study utilized a cross-sectional design. Some 1266 workers comprising 1100 men and 166 women (all aged between 20 and 69 years of age) were involved in the study of major depressive disorder. In-depth clinical interviews were conducted, as per the requirements of the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual (DSM 4) of Mental Disorders.

The studies found that 34 individuals had suicidal ideation and 70 individuals exhibited signs of major depressive disorder. That number represents a small percentage of the 1266 workers in the study. The results confirmed interesting trends, notably a high prevalence of suicidal ideation in the 40-year-old to 49-year-old age group. With respect to suicidal ideation, the study identified 6 symptoms of 8 major depressive disorder symptoms that were present:

  • Loss of concentration
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Weight loss
  • Depressive mood
  • Loss of interest

The island nation of Japan is particularly interesting when it comes to suicidal ideation and depression. For starters, Japan is associated with one of the world’s highest suicide rates. Ironically, it’s also known as a country with the longest life expectancy. In terms of suicide rates among men, Japan ranks at #9, and among women, it ranks #3 in the world. The data in the study was compiled between 1995 through 1998.



The results of this particular study were intriguing. Some 34 people were identified as having suicidal thoughts and 70 were identified with major depressive disorder. As expected, those who didn’t exercise much and imbibed on alcohol were more likely to harbor thoughts of suicide. It is worth pointing out that there is a notable correlation in this study between the symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD) and suicidal ideation, with 6/8 symptoms overlapping.


Have you or a loved one suffered from depression or suicidal ideation?

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Relationship Between Depression and Suicidal Ideation  - Various studies have been conducted on depression and suicidal ideation. Research suggests, there is a moderate association between depression and suicidal ideation. According to clinicians, suicidal ideation references a desire to take one's life, wishing that one's life would end, or harbouring thoughts of killing oneself or harming oneself. The ideation – the planning and conceptualizing of the suicide, or suicidal thoughts – often predates the suicide attempt, or death by suicide. #depression #suicidalideation  #suicide  #mentalhealth  #mentalhealthtreatments  #depressionandsuicide