Factors Associated with Suicidal Ideation in Patients with Chronic Non-Cancer Pain

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Objectives. This study’s aim was to identify the most important general and pain-related risk factors of suicidal ideation in a large sample of patients with chronic non-cancer pain.

Methods. A total of 728 patients with chronic non-cancer pain were recruited from the waitlists of eight multidisciplinary pain clinics across Canada. Patients were assessed using self-administered questionnaires to measure demographic, pain-related (intensity, duration, interference, sleep problems), psychological (anxiety, anger, depressive symptoms including suicidal ideation), cognitive (catastrophizing, attitudes/beliefs), and health-related quality of life variables. A hierarchical logistic regression analysis was used to identify the factors that were associated with presence/absence of suicidal ideation while controlling for depressive symptoms.

Results. The results showed that being a male, longer pain duration, higher anger levels, feelings of helplessness, greater pain magnification, and being more depressed were significant independent predictor factors of suicidal ideation, while better perceived mental health was related with a lesser likelihood of suicidal ideation. Moreover, being in a relationship and believing in a medical cure for pain might be protective of suicidal ideation while being anxious may be more associated with suicidal ideation.

Conclusions. These results indicate that development of suicidal ideation is more closely related to pain chronicity and certain psychosocial factors than how severe or physically incapacitating the pain is. Many of these factors could potentially be modified by early identification of suicidal ideation and developing targeted cognitive interventions for suicidal at-risk patients. Research to examine the efficacy of these interventions for reducing suicidal ideation is warranted.

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