Suicide is a leading cause of death among college students. In order to advance understanding of suicide risk factors in this population, the present study provides a theoretically grounded test of associations between experiences in sports and both facets of capability for suicide (i.e., fearlessness about death and pain tolerance). Secondarily, the present study aimed to explore possible distinctions between subjective and objective pain tolerance.
Undergraduate students (N = 153) completed the study at a single timepoint. A pressure algometer was used to measure objective pain tolerance, and self-report questionnaires assessed subjective pain tolerance, fearlessness about death (FAD), sports participation, sports-related injuries, level of contact in sport, and weight manipulation practices for sport.
Athletes had greater capability for suicide (i.e., higher objective and subjective pain tolerance and greater FAD) relative to non-athletes. Sports-related injuries were positively associated with both FAD and subjective pain tolerance, and level of contact in sport was positively associated with FAD. Objective and subjective pain tolerance were moderately correlated.
Sports-related injuries and level of physical contact in athletics are associated with the facets of capability for suicide among college student athletes. Discrepancies in results between subjective and objective pain tolerance suggest important distinctions between these constructs.