Objective: Perform a meta-analysis to quantify the association between psychological pain and current or lifetime history of suicidal ideation or suicide attempt.
Data sources: Search MEDLINE, Web of Science, and PsycINFO from 1965 to 2015 for (psychache OR mental pain OR psychological pain) AND (suicid*).
Study selection: Observational case-control studies addressing the difference in psychological pain between individuals with and without current or lifetime history of suicidal ideation or suicide attempt.
Data extraction: Data were independently extracted into a standard electronic form. All authors were contacted for unpublished data related to current or lifetime history of suicide ideation or attempt.
Data synthesis: Twenty studies were included. Comparisons concerned 760 subjects with versus 8,803 subjects without lifetime history of suicide attempt; 344 subjects with versus 357 patients without current suicide attempt; 262 patients with versus 64 patients without lifetime history of suicidal ideation; and 551 subjects with versus 7,383 subjects without current suicidal ideation. The intensity of psychological pain was higher (1) in both subjects with lifetime history of suicide attempts and subjects with current suicide attempts versus without (effect sizes = 0.72, P < 10⁻² and 0.66, P < 10⁻², respectively) and (2) in both subjects with lifetime history of suicide ideation and subjects with current suicidal ideation versus without (effect sizes = 1.49, P = .01 and 1.15, P < 10⁻², respectively). Association between psychological pain and suicidality remained significant even when depression levels were not different between subjects.
Conclusions: Higher psychological pain levels are associated with suicidal ideation and acts. Considering psychological pain to be at the core of suicidality is important for daily clinical practice and for the promotion of innovative therapeutic strategies for suicide prevention.
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