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Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2011 Oct;20(10):509-16. doi: 10.1007/s00787-011-0211-3. Epub 2011 Aug 17.

Pain complaints as risk factor for mental distress: a three-year follow-up study.

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Department of Mental Health and Addiction, University of Oslo, Blindern, Norway.


The main aim of this study was to investigate the effect of pain complaints at baseline and mental distress at follow-up. We included adolescents from two longitudinal studies of 18/19 years of age with two corresponding cross-sectional baseline studies at age 15/16. A total of 5750 were invited for the baseline study, and we have 3-year follow-up data for 3316 (57.8% follow-up rate). All information is based on self-report. The questions of pain are asking for severe pain the past year. Mental distress is measured by Hopkins Symptoms Check List (HSCL-10). Number of pain sites increased among girls and decreased among boys from baseline to follow-up. There was a cross-sectional dose-response association between number of pain sites and mental distress at both time points. Also, in the follow-up study, there was dose-response relationship between numbers of pain sites at baseline and mental distress at follow-up even after controlling for possible confounding factors. We found no effect of mental distress at baseline on pain reports at follow-up. There is a strong association between pain at 15/16 years and mental distress at 18/19 years of age. Clinicians should therefore take pain complaints among adolescents seriously and be aware of comorbid and later development of mental health problems.

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