Rheumatology International

, Volume 36, Issue 9, pp 1237–1248 | Cite as

Arthritis and suicide attempts: findings from a large nationally representative Canadian survey

  • Esme Fuller-ThomsonEmail author
  • Natasha Ramzan
  • Stephanie L. Baird
Public Health


The objectives of this study were (1) to determine the odds of suicide attempts among those with arthritis compared with those without and to see what factors attenuate this association and (2) to identify which factors are associated with suicide attempts among adults with arthritis. Secondary data analysis of the nationally representative 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health (CCHS-MH) was performed. For objective 1, those with and without arthritis were included (n = 21,744). For objective 2, only individuals who had arthritis (n = 4885) were included. A series of binary logistic regression analyses of suicide attempts were conducted for each objective, with adjustments for socio-demographics, childhood adversities, lifetime mental health and chronic pain. After full adjustment for the above listed variables, the odds of suicide attempts among adults with arthritis were 1.46. Among those with arthritis, early adversities alone explained 24 % of the variability in suicide attempts. After full adjustment, the odds of suicide attempts among those with arthritis were significantly higher among those who had experienced childhood sexual abuse (OR = 3.77), chronic parental domestic violence (OR = 3.97) or childhood physical abuse (1.82), those who had ever been addicted to drugs or alcohol (OR = 1.76) and ever had a depressive disorder (OR = 3.22) or an anxiety disorder (OR = 2.34) and those who were currently in chronic pain (OR = 1.50). Younger adults with arthritis were more likely to report having attempted suicide. Future prospective research is needed to uncover plausible mechanisms through which arthritis and suicide attempts are linked.


Suicide attempt Pain Arthritis 



This research was undertaken, in part, thanks to support for the first author from the Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair in Social Work. The authors would also like to extend thanks to Senyo Agbeyaka for his helpful comments and assistance with manuscript preparation. The authors would like to thank the staff members of the Toronto RDC for assistance with access to the CCHS-MH. This research was supported by funds to the Canadian Research Data Centre Network (CRDCN) from the Social Science and Humanities research Council (SSHRC), the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and Statistics Canada. Although the research and analysis are based on data from Statistics Canada, the opinions expressed do not represent the views of Statistics Canada or the Canadian Research Data Centre Network (CRDCN).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Esme Fuller-Thomson, Natasha Ramzan and Stephanie L. Baird declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained by Statistics Canada from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Esme Fuller-Thomson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Natasha Ramzan
    • 1
  • Stephanie L. Baird
    • 1
  1. 1.Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social WorkUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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