Chronic Pain Associated With Higher Suicide Risk

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Mar 04, 2009

Mind-Body-Spirit News

Mindful forms of exercise—such as gentle yoga, tai chi and qigong—can be helpful to individuals suffering from chronic pain. If you teach one of these disciplines, you may want to reach out to people in pain, especially as a recent study found that they are more prone to commit suicide than those without pain.

To arrive at this conclusion, researchers at Ann Arbor VA Hospital and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, examined data from a 2001–2003 epidemiological survey of 5,692 English-speaking adults regarding chronic pain and suicidal thoughts over the previous 12 months.

Adjusted for mental illness and chronic physical conditions, findings revealed that those who suffered from frequent head pain were twice as likely to report having suicidal thoughts and to say they had attempted suicide. Individuals with other types of pain unrelated to arthritis were four times as likely to have tried to commit suicide. Mark Ilgen, PhD, lead study author, psychologist at Ann Arbor VA Hospital and assistant professor at the University of Michigan, told Newswise, “Pain is one of those factors that may make someone feel more hopeless and less optimistic about the future and increases the chances that they will think about suicide. The vast majority of people with any of these forms of pain are not suicidal.”

The study appeared in General Hospital Psychiatry (2008; 30 [6], 521–27).

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in L...