Study finds Mental Disorders can Predict Onset of Pain in Adolescents

New research published earlier this fall in The Journal of Pain concludes that affective, anxiety and behavioral disorders are early risk factors for the eventual development of chronic pain in adolescents. The work, conducted by a multicenter research team in Europe, builds on previous studies that have shown a connection between psychopathology—including depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, substance abuse, and personality disorders—and pain in adults. Estimates of comorbidity in adult patients with pain range from 6% to 28%. The team found that, while all types of pain were related to mental disorders, the strongest associations occurred in cases of mental disorder preceding the onset of pain.

The research group, led by Marion Tegethoff, PhD, of the University of Basel’s Faculty of Psychology, investigated how often, in what patterns, and in what chronological order the connections between psychopathology and pain occur in children and young people. Funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the project analyzed a representative sample population from the USA, consisting of 6,483 young people between the ages of 13 and 18. The researchers found that more than a quarter (25.9%) of the young people had suffered from chronic pain and at least one mental disorder during their lifetime. The authors state that their work supports the need for more research into the adolescent population on this topic, and for better collaboration between pain practitioners and mental health specialists in treatment. Read more about the study conclusions here. The journal abstract may be read here.

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