Prospective associations of frequent pain symptoms with suicidal behavior in adolescents.

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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 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 while adjusting for family and personal psychosocial covariates. 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.

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Authors: Xianchen Liu, Zhen-Zhen Liu, Yanyun Yang, Cun-Xian Jia