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Pain. 1988 Oct;35(1):47-55.

Depressed mood in chronic low back pain: relationship with stressful life events.

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Psychiatry and Surgery Services, San Diego VA Medical Center, CA 92161.


This study investigated the relationship between stressful life events and depressed mood in chronic low back pain (CLBP), using both self-report and observer-rated assessments of life happenings and depression. We hypothesized that CLBP patients with depressed mood (N = 15) would report significantly more untoward life events and ongoing life difficulties compared to CLBP patients without depressed mood (N = 17) and controls (N = 19). This prediction was confirmed. Subjects also were rated as being either in a high stress or low stress condition. Patients with depressed mood were more likely to be in the high stress condition than were either non-depressed patients or volunteers. Furthermore, the increased stress reported by the distressed group appeared to be a direct consequence of back pain-related life events, rather than from other life problems. We conclude that previously reported associations between life events and CLBP are a function of the relationship between stressful life events and depressive symptoms, which are prevalent in CLBP.

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