Half of Adults with Anxiety or Depression Have Chronic Pain, Study Says

Half of Adults with Anxiety or Depression Have Chronic Pain, Study Says

Researchers from the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health have published the results of a survey that found that about half of adults with anxiety or mood disorders, like depression or bipolar disorder, experience chronic pain.  The findings are published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

“The dual burden of chronic physical conditions and mood and anxiety disorders is a significant and growing problem,” said Silvia Martins, MD, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, and senior author.

The research examined survey data to analyze associations between DSM-IV-diagnosed mood and anxiety disorders and self-reported chronic physical conditions among 5,037 adults in São Paulo, Brazil. Participants were also interviewed in person.

Among individuals with a mood disorder, chronic pain was the most common, reported by 50 percent, followed by respiratory diseases at 33 percent, cardiovascular disease at 10 percent, arthritis reported by 9 percent, and diabetes by 7 percent.

Anxiety disorders were also common for those with chronic pain at 45 percent, and respiratory at 30 percent, as well as arthritis and cardiovascular disease, each at 11 percent. Individuals with two or more chronic diseases had increased odds of a mood or anxiety disorder. Hypertension was associated with both disorders at 23 percent.

“These results shed new light on the public health impact of the dual burden of physical and mental illness,” said Dr. Martins. “Chronic disease coupled with a psychiatric disorder is a pressing issue that health providers should consider when designing preventive interventions and treatment services-especially the heavy mental health burden experienced by those with two or more chronic diseases.”

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Which came first, the depression/anxiety or the chronic pain??? DUH!!!
Anyone with chronic pain or any other illness is likely to become depressed/anxious at some point because living with chronic pain sucks the life right out of you. All these studies/etc. “JUST DON’T GET IT!!!”

Jean Price

H J…I agree with what you are saying. When I first saw this article, my initial reaction was….”Oh, here we go…is pain destined to be viewed as a mood disorder…or a mental health or behavior disorder!?” They already bandy about the term “opioid dependent disorder”! I’m expecting this will be next…if they don’t start really seeing us as patients who are PHYSICALLY impaired by PAIN…and the diseases or injuries that cause the pain! Of course we have emotional upsets—who wouldn’t? But they are a normal part of the losses we’ve experienced! Not a mental disorder per se!

So…I’d think it would be important to differentiate from the patient’s history…of which comes first…the pain or the depression, the anxiety or the pain?! This is fairly simple really! Long term pain…(and the diseases and injuries that cause pain)…does result in major losses. So, depression, anxiety, mood swings, frustration, anger…all of these are natural NORMAL feelings associated with loss…and with grief! Not with a mental health disorder!

I realize there are clinical forms of anxiety and depression and mood disorders, yet those disorder interfere with daily living and have NO valid underlying CIRCUMSTANCES/reasons! Yet when these same feelings are part of the losses due to pain….it’s the pain that interferes with daily living! And people with long term pain have many valid reasons to be anxious and depressed and have varying moods…so they do have valid circumstances!

Two entirely different types of support therapy would be needed, also…if they did intend to offer emotional support to people with pain! The type of care given for grief therapy is about processing the loss…and allowing the feelings, not treating them with medications, except for complicated grief and times of crisis. So confusing the care of those with pain who are having anxiety….yet have never had a previous anxiety disorder…could mean less helpful treatment. Plus not adding grief therapy to the care of those with an anxiety disorders who develop long term pain can also be less helpful.

We are walking a fine line here…and it will NOT be appropriate if the “heavy mental burden” of pain and multiple chronic illnesses this article mentions gets thrown into general mental health care…instead of normal grief and loss support. Especially if all pain care would then start being coded as a mental health treatment for insurance purposes! THEY would stand to save a ton of money….and WE would lose half of whatever coverage we have. Scary stuff!


CRPS= hurts. (Cut thumb off pain)
Hurts 24/7/365= depression.

How else can this be looked at? Help

Cynthia Manca

I agree with Kathy, this is a no brainer. People suffering from chronic pain, including myself, are usually given multiple medications that only address the symptoms. It is imperative that patients become their best advocates & do the research & get involved in their healthcare.It is very easy to become depressed when your health declines & you can’t see past the list of meds your prescribed, dealing with multiple side effects & not getting any answers as to why your not feeling better!

Kathy C

Another “Study” linking Chronic Pain and Depression. This ought to be a no brainer. Once again they try to rewrite the Chicken or the Egg narrative. The Data they used was from Brazil. That is significant, because it is a different country with different ways of “Treating Pain” and “Depression.” They also have any entirely different type of Healthcare System. it begs the question, Why. Why do they have to go out of the U.S to collect data like this? Our “System” is unable to capture this kind of data, or they liked the ratio better in Brazil. We will never know. We are Post Science here in the U.S so if they want to give credibility to a Hypothesis, biased or not, they just find another country that actually collect this kind of Data. This “Survey” can then be used to shore up some Big Pharma marketing campaign. The one where Anti Depressants are doled out to any person reporting “Pain.” They won’t help the underlying symptoms, and in many markets, they are in place of treating the original source of the pain, at least the “patient” will appear to have been “Treated.” It also removes any shred of credibility they had in reporting the pain in the first place. So if the Patient has pain due to cancer, and they give them Anti Depressants, instead of determining the cause of the pain in the first place, they are avoiding Liability. These Industry people are smart, they have the best minds money can buy. They are projecting “Alternate Facts” which will be Interpreted differently due to Insurance reimbursement or Social Status. They avoid “Research” on that, just like the Research that does not support their narrative or profitability, won’t get much coverage in Corporate Media.


What. As someone whose sleep apnea diagnosis was delayed years because despite having asked straight out for a sleep study, the physician declared that I was “just depressed” and handed me a script for anti-depressants, I can’t help but feel frustrated — bordering on livid. Sometimes people try desperately to get help for really life-affecting illnesses and are turned away because someone gives them a psychiatric label before really LISTENING to them. Do no harm, docs. Please. Step 1: Listen to your patient’s complaints before jumping to conclusions. I had a doctor say that I’m lucky he’d treat me because most doctors see a depressed patient and want to run the other way. What gave him license to say such a thing to a patient? I’ve seen how being labeled gives a patient less credibility, how doctors become dismissive, and flat-out UNPROFESSIONAL at times? So I ask - what HARM is being done to patients who may be misdiagnosed? OR, if correctly diagnosed, does the social stigma associated with mental health diagnoses justify a doctor treating their patient unprofessionally… perhaps even abusively?!? How about we look at things another way? Patients who have life-changing, chronic health conditions have a poorer quality of life and therefore, are more likely to be “depressed” or “anxious” if you want to call it that. (I’d interject that under certain circumstances, it’s probably NORMAL to be upset, angry, distressed, frustrated, scared, worried, sad when living with a LIFE-CHANGING illness). It’s normal to grieve when someone dies, right? So, let’s take a healthy person and deprive them of the same level of social interactions that they’re used to. Let’s tell them that they are no longer permitted to maintain their household with the same frequency they are accustomed to (put them on a cleaning schedule that is deeply restricted). Let’s take a healthy person and tell them that a friend will no longer speak to them because that friend says you cancelled plans too many times. Let’s put some of the same restrictions that people with chronic illness face… on healthy individuals. And see if healthy individuals are still as satisfied with their lives. Look for signs of sadness, of frustration… People with chronic pain face activity restrictions because of their symptoms that have a valid emotional impact on them. Why not normalize this!?!? It’s GRIEF. Why not look at how you can help a newly-diagnosed person learn how to cope?!? When someone gets diabetes, they get a heck of a lot of support from the medical system. People with chronic pain feel like they’re marginalized by the same professionals who are supposed to be helping them. There is no safety net, nobody to point you in the right direction for help. So. I’m livid now. Because this unenlightened piece of “research” is not only unhelpful, but potentially damaging to the chronic pain community. To the researchers: thanks for further marginalizing us. Thank God I’ve learned that my experience is valid, that my emotions are reasonable… Read more »

Bob Schubring

Depression is in large measure a response to the emotion known as “shame”. When we fail to satisfy our own needs, we diminish our desires to almost nothing, so as not to feel the frustration and the fear, of having unmet and unmeetable needs.

Our prehistoric ancestors, coping with a lengthy stretch of bad weather that kept them inside the tent, reduced their food intake and sat still, waiting for the weather to improve.

The problem with this evolved response, is that our bodies don’t function well when we sit still, don’t move, and starve ourselves. A few days or a week, waiting for a bad weather pattern to break, was survivable. Going for months on end, with minimal movement and poor nutrition, makes us much sicker.

It’s because some in our modern society view depression as a desirable state, that too many of us don’t take seriously the fact that depression is, in fact, a disease condition, when it doesn’t resolve immediately with the removal of the stress that brought it on.

A disease that causes us pain when we try to move, provokes the same urges that a bad storm gave our prehistoric ancestors: We respond by not moving.

Medicating people for pain, to assist them in regaining mobility, is essential to rehabilitate them and restore them to health.