Thoughts of death and suicidality among patients with cancer: examining subtypes and their association with mental disorders


OBJECTIVE: Cancer is associated with an increased risk for completed suicide. We explored subtypes of thoughts of death, death wishes, suicidal ideation and behavior and their association with mental disorders and demographic and disease-related characteristics.

METHODS: We studied 2,141 cancer patients with the standardized Composite International Diagnostic Interview-Oncology (CIDI-O). Assessment included 4-weeks-prevalences of thoughts of death, wish to die, suicidal ideation, suicide plans, and lifetime suicide attempts. We further assessed 4-weeks-prevalences of mood, anxiety, adjustment, somatoform, substance use, and disorders due to general medical condition. We conducted latent class analyses (LCA).

RESULTS: The LCA identified three classes with distinct patterns of suicidality. Class 1 (89.0% of the sample) showed no suicidality. Class 2 (6.9%) was characterized by thoughts of death without suicidal ideation. Class 3 (4.1%) was characterized by thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, and suicide plans. Death wishes occurred in both classes 2 and 3. Classes 2 and 3 were associated with a significantly higher risk for any mental disorder (OR from 4.22, adjustment disorder, to 10.20, mood disorders, p < 0.001) compared to class 1. Patients with mental disorders were equally likely in classes 2 and 3. Patients with incurable cancer were significantly more likely in class 2, and less likely in class 3.

CONCLUSIONS: Cancer patients with suicidal ideation are not distinctly characterized by mental disorders. Further study of concepts that consider problematic adjustment to the cancer stressor such as death anxiety and demoralization may contribute to understand psychological distress underlying subtypes of thoughts of death and suicidality in cancer.

Bibliografische Daten

StatusVeröffentlicht - 12.2021
PubMed 33864314