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Prospective Associations of Frequent Pain Symptoms With Suicidal Behavior in Adolescents

Published:February 23, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2021.02.007

      Highlights

      • Chronic pain and suicidal behavior are prevalent in adolescents.
      • A large prospective study examined pain-suicidality association in adolescents.
      • Chronic pain increased 50-70% risk of suicidal behavior 1 year later.
      • Pain assessment and treatment may be important for suicide prevention.

      Abstract

      Chronic pain and suicidal behavior are prevalent in adolescents. This longitudinal study examined the associations between pain symptoms and suicidal behavior in adolescents. A total of 7,072 adolescents participated in a follow-up study of behavior and health in Shandong, China. A self-administered structured questionnaire was used to assess pain symptoms (headache, stomachache, and other nonspecific pain), insomnia, anxiety/depression, substance use, stressful life events, prior suicidal behavior, and family environment in November-December in 2015. One year later, a follow-up survey was conducted. Mean age of the sample was 14.6 years, and half were female. Of the sample, 44.8% and 8.4% reported having one or more pain symptoms “sometimes” and “often”, respectively. A total of 22.4% and 10.6% reported having lifetime suicidal behavior at baseline and subsequent suicidal behavior over the 1-year follow-up, respectively. Frequent pain was significantly associated with increased risk of suicidal behavior at baseline (OR=1.64, 95%CI=1.32-2.03) and during the subsequent year (OR=1.50, 95%CI=1.17-1.93) while adjusting for adolescent individual and family covariates. Among adolescents without a history of prior suicidal behavior, frequent pain was significantly associated with an approximately 70% increased risk of incident suicidal behavior (OR= 1.69, 95%CI=1.14-2.51). In conclusion, frequent pain appears to be predictive of adolescent suicidal behavior one year later.

      Perspective

      This article presents the prospective associations of frequent pain symptoms with suicidal behavior in adolescents. Frequent pain was associated with a 50-70% increased risk of suicidal behavior 1 year later. The finding underscores the importance of pain assessment and treatment in comprehensive suicide prevention efforts in adolescents.

      Key Words

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