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Even back pain may increase risk of suicide

IANS | New York |

Several physical health conditions, including ailments such as back pain, diabetes, and heart disease, are associated with an increased risk of suicide, says a study.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, suggest that chronic illness, even in patients with no record of mental health problems, raises suicide risk substantially.

Two of the conditions — sleep disorders and HIV/AIDS — represented a greater than twofold increase, while traumatic brain injury made individuals nine times more likely to die by suicide, the study said.

"Although suicide risk appears to be pervasive across most physical health conditions, prevention efforts appear to be particularly important for patients with a traumatic brain injury, whose odds of suicide are increased nearly nine-fold," said lead investigator Brian Ahmedani of Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan.

This study included 2,674 individuals who died by suicide between 2000 and 2013 along with 267,400 controls matched on year and location in a case-control study across eight Mental Health Research Network healthcare systems in the US. 

Seventeen of 19 medical conditions investigated were linked to an increased suicide risk: asthma, back pain, brain injury, cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, hypertension, migraine, Parkinson's disease, psychogenic pain, renal disorder, sleep disorders, and stroke.

While all of these conditions were associated with greater risk, some conditions showed a stronger association than others. 

For example, people with a traumatic brain injury were nine times more likely to die by suicide, while those with sleep disorders and HIV/AIDS were at a greater than twofold risk.

Along with varying rates among conditions, having multiple physical health conditions also substantially increased risk.

According to this study, targeted interventions in primary care and specialty care may be the key to preventing suicides. 

"Several conditions, such as back pain, sleep disorders, and traumatic brain injury were all associated with suicide risk and are commonly diagnosed, making patients with these conditions primary targets for suicide prevention," Ahmedani said.