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Psychosom Med. 2010 Sep;72(7):712-9. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181e3333d. Epub 2010 May 24.

Chronic physical conditions and their association with first onset of suicidal behavior in the world mental health surveys.

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Department of Psychological Medicine, Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Otago University, Wellington South, New Zealand.



To investigate the association of a range of temporally prior physical conditions with the subsequent first onset of suicidal ideation, plans, and attempts in large, general population, cross-national sample. The associations between physical conditions and suicidal behavior remain unclear due to sparse data and varied methodology.


Predictive associations between 13 temporally prior physical conditions and first onset of suicidal ideation, plans, and attempts were examined in a 14-country sample (n = 37,915) after controlling for demographic, socioeconomic, and psychosocial covariates, with and without adjustment for mental disorders.


Most physical conditions were associated with suicidal ideation in the total sample; high blood pressure, heart attack/stroke, arthritis, chronic headache, other chronic pain, and respiratory conditions were associated with attempts in the total sample; epilepsy, cancer, and heart attack/stroke were associated with planned attempts. Epilepsy was the physical condition most strongly associated with the suicidal outcomes. Physical conditions were especially predictive of suicidality if they occurred early in life. As the number of physical conditions increased, the risk of suicidal outcomes also increased, however the added risk conferred was generally smaller with each additional condition. Adjustment for mental disorders made little substantive difference to these results. Physical conditions were equally predictive of suicidality in higher and lower income countries.


The presence of physical conditions is a risk factor for suicidal behavior even in the absence of mental disorder.

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