Importance: There are limited data on the extent to which suicide mortality is associated with specific pain conditions.
Objective: To examine the associations between clinical diagnoses of noncancer pain conditions and suicide among individuals receiving services in the Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.
Design: Retrospective data analysis.
Setting: Data were extracted from National Death Index and treatment records from the Department of Veterans Healthcare System.
Participants: Individuals receiving services in fiscal year 2005 who remained alive at the start of fiscal year 2006 (N = 4 863 086).
Main Outcomes and Measures: Analyses examined the association between baseline clinical diagnoses of pain-related conditions (arthritis, back pain, migraine, neuropathy, headache or tension headache, fibromyalgia, and psychogenic pain) and subsequent suicide death (assessed in fiscal years 2006-2008).
Results: Controlling for demographic and contextual factors (age, sex, and Charlson score), elevated suicide risks were observed for each pain condition except arthritis and neuropathy (hazard ratios ranging from 1.33 [99% CI, 1.22-1.45] for back pain to 2.61 [1.82-3.74] for psychogenic pain). When analyses controlled for concomitant psychiatric conditions, the associations between pain conditions and suicide death were reduced; however, significant associations remained for back pain (hazard ratio, 1.13 [99% CI, 1.03-1.24]), migraine (1.34 [1.02-1.77]), and psychogenic pain (1.58 [1.11-2.26]).
Conclusions and Relevance: There is a need for increased awareness of suicide risk in individuals with certain noncancer pain diagnoses, in particular back pain, migraine, and psychogenic pain.