A healthy mind in a healthy body: the Association between suicide and chronic illness

  • J. Bhaskaran
  • Y. Wang
  • N. Mota
  • J. Bolton
  • J. Sareen
  • R. El-Gabalawy


Background: The relationship between psychiatric disorders and suicide has been well documented, however the relationship between chronic illness and suicide has been given less attention in the literature. Methods: We utilized the third wave of the National Comorbidity Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). It was a nationally representative survey of the civilian non-institutionalized population of the United States aged 18 years and older. The final sample size was 36,309. Physical disorders examined included HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), Liver Disease, Cancer, Heart Disease, Lung Disease, Gastrointestinal Disease, Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Osteoporosis, Epilepsy, Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury, Anemia, Multiple logistic regressions were conducted to examine associations between physical disorders and suicide, first while controlling for sociodemographic characteristics for comorbid psychiatric disorders. Results: Physical disorders that emerged as significantly associated with elevated suicide risk include STIs [AOR= 4.26, 95% CI (Confidence Interval): 1.67-10.88], Heart Disease [AOR= 2.157, 95% CI: 1.05- 4.427), Lung disease and Tuberculosis [AOR = 2.007, 95% CI: 1.255 - 3.43], Epilepsy [AOR = 8.26, 95% CI: 2.92-23.33], and sleep problems [AOR = 2.91, 95% CI: 1.84 - 4.61]. Conclusions: The demonstrated associations between physical disorders and suicidal behaviour suggest a need for increased attention to be paid to the mental health needs of individuals facing chronic physical illnesses, in order to ameliorate stress and potentially improve long term outcomes.
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