Chronic Pain Conditions and Suicidal Ideation and Suicide Attempts: An Epidemiologic Perspective

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Investigations of the association between chronic pain conditions and suicidal ideation (SI) and suicide attempts (SA) have rarely taken the effect of mental disorders into account and have been limited by nonrepresentative samples. The present study used a large population-based sample to investigate the association between chronic pain conditions and SI and SA.


Data were from the Canadian Community Health Survey Cycle 1.2 public use file conducted by Statistics Canada from 2001 to 2002 (N=36,984; response rate 77%). Respondents were asked if they had been diagnosed with the following painful conditions: migraine, back problems, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. Respondents were assessed for past 12-month SI and SA. The Composite International Diagnostic Interview was used to assess Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV.


After adjusting for sociodemographics, Axis I mental disorders and comorbidity (3 or more mental disorders), the presence of 1 or more chronic pain conditions was associated with both SI and SA. Among respondents with a mental disorder, comorbidity with 1 or more chronic pain conditions was also associated with SI and SA. In models adjusting for other painful conditions, migraine had the strongest link with SI and SA.


This is the first study to demonstrate the association between several chronic pain conditions and SI and SA while adjusting for mental disorders in a nationally representative sample. Moreover, this study demonstrates that among individuals with a mental disorder, having a chronic pain condition significantly increased the association with SI and SA.

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