Is childhood pain associated with future mental health problems?

Mallen, Christian D.; Mottram, Sara; Thomas, Elaine
June 2009
Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology;Jun2009, Vol. 44 Issue 6, p489
Academic Journal
Depression is frequently associated with pain, yet the exact nature of this relationship is still not completely understood. Increasingly it is thought that pain and depression may share a common causal pathway that may originate in childhood. A cross-sectional population-based survey recruited participants aged 18–25 years. Participants were asked about their current and childhood pain experiences. Current levels of anxiety and depression were assessed using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. A total of 858 young adults responded to the questionnaire. Depression was associated with having a family member with pain during childhood (OR 1.50; 95% CI 1.00, 2.26), having more illness than peers during secondary school (1.66; 1.03, 2.67) and having more than three relatives with pain during childhood (OR 2.48; 1.48, 4.15). Adult anxiety was associated with more illness than peers at primary school (1.73; 1.15, 2.61), more ‘emotional’ causes of pain at both primary (1.73; CI 1.13, 2.65) and secondary school (2.06; 1.41, 3.00), and having a family member with pain during childhood (1.39; 1.04, 1.86). This study adds further evidence of an association between pain experiences in childhood and mental health problems in adulthood. Clinicians should be aware of the importance of assessing childhood pain exposures in adult patients with common mental health problems.


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