Risk of suicide is two to three times higher in people with chronic pain compared to general population

April 2015
Campbell, G., Darke, S., Bruno, R., Degenhardt, L. (2015). The prevalence and correlates of chronic pain and suicidality in a nationally representative sample. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Advance online publication. DOI: 10.1177/0004867415569795

The problem

Research suggests that people suffering from chronic pain have elevated rates of suicidality. With an ageing population, more research is essential to gain a better understanding of this association. However while some data exists in US populations there has been no systematic review of the prevalence in Australian populations.

What we did

The authors analysed data from the 2007 Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, a nationally representative household survey on 8841 people, aged 16–85 years.

What we found

The odds of lifetime and past 12-month suicidality were two to three times greater in people with chronic pain. Sixty-five percent of people who attempted suicide in the past 12 months had a history of chronic pain. Chronic pain was independently associated with lifetime suicidality after controlling for demographic, mental health and substance use disorders.

What this means for clinicians

Health care professionals need to be aware of the risk of suicidality in patients with chronic pain, even in the absence of mental health problems.