Background Given the relatively high rates of suicidal ideation and attempt among people with chronic pain, there is a need to understand the underlying factors to target suicide prevention efforts. To date, no study has examined the association between pain phenotypes and suicide related behaviors among those with mild traumatic brain injuries. Objective To determine if pain phenotypes were independently associated with suicidal ideation/attempt or if comorbidities within the pain phenotypes account for the association between pain phenotypes and suicide related behaviors. Methods This is a longitudinal retrospective cohort study of suicide ideation/attempts among pain phenotypes previously derived using general mixture latent variable models of the joint distribution of repeated measures of pain scores and pain medications/treatment. We used national VA inpatient, outpatient, and pharmacy data files for Post-9/11 Veterans with mild traumatic injury who entered VA care between fiscal years (FY) 2007 and 2009. We considered a counterfactual causal modeling framework to assess the extent that the pain phenotypes during years 1-5 of VA care were predictive of suicide ideation/attempt during years 6-8 of VA care conditioned on covariates being balanced between pain phenotypes. Results Without adjustment, pain phenotypes were significant predictors of suicide related behaviors. When we used propensity scores to balance the comorbidities present in the pain phenotypes, the pain phenotypes were no longer significantly associated with suicide related behaviors. Conclusion These findings suggest that suicide ideation/attempt is associated with pain trajectories primarily through latent multimorbidity. Therefore, it is critical to identify and manage comorbidities (e.g., depression, post-traumatic stress disorder) to prevent tragic outcomes associated with suicide related behaviors throughout the course of chronic pain and mild traumatic brain injury management.
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