One in four teenagers with mental disorders also suffer in chronic pain, according to a study published in the Journal of Pain.
Researchers led by Dr. Marion Tegethoff of the University of Basel’s Faculty of Psychology, analyzed data from 6,483 teens in the U.S. between the ages of 13 and 18. They found that over 25% of the sample population experienced both chronic pain and some form of a mental disorder. They experienced mental disorders prior to the onset of chronic pain.
Both mental disorders and chronic pain have a strong correlation to a poorer quality of life. If you consider the figures, this is a major healthcare problem — 20% of teens have mental disorders, and 25% of them also have chronic pain.
The highlights from the study include:
• The prevalence of the co-occurrence of chronic pain and mental disorders was 25.93%.
• All types of chronic pain were associated with mental disorders.
• Mental disorders preceded onset of chronic pain, but not vice versa.
• Integrative care might improve prevention and intervention for chronic pain.
“All types of pain were related to mental disorders,” the authors wrote. “The most substantial temporal associations were those with onset of mental disorders preceding onset of chronic pain, including those between affective disorders and headaches and any chronic pain; between anxiety disorders and chronic back/neck pain, headaches, and any chronic pain; between behavior disorders and headaches and any chronic pain; and between any mental disorder and chronic back/neck pain, headaches, and any chronic pain.”
So, what does this mean?
Mental disorders, like anxiety and behavior disorders, may be early risk factors that predict chronic pain in teens’ futures.
It also means that preventative care should be taken for teens with mental illness through an integrative approach that considers chronic pain, or as Dr. Tegethoff says, “Future studies should focus on identifying the underlying biological and psychological mechanisms with a view to developing interdisciplinary approaches to prevention and treatment.”