Using chronic pain to predict depressive morbidity in the general population

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2003 Jan;60(1):39-47. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.60.1.39.


Background: Pain syndrome is thought to play a role in depression. This study assesses the prevalence of chronic (>or= 6 months' duration) painful physical conditions (CPPCs) (joint/articular, limb, or back pain, headaches, or gastrointestinal diseases) and their relationship with major depressive disorder.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional telephone survey of a random sample of 18 980 subjects from 15 to 100 years old representative of the general populations of the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Answers provided during telephone interviews using the Sleep-EVAL system were the main outcome measure. Interviews included questions about mental disorders and medical conditions. Data on painful physical conditions were obtained through questions about medical treatment, consultations, and/or hospitalizations for medical conditions and a list of 42 diseases.

Results: Of all subjects interviewed, 17.1% reported having at least 1 CPPC (95% confidence interval [CI], 16.5%-17.6%). At least 1 depressive symptom (sadness, depression, hopelessness, loss of interest, or lack of pleasure) was present in 16.5% of subjects (95% CI, 16.0%-17.1%); 27.6% of these subjects had at least 1 CPPC. Major depressive disorder was diagnosed in 4.0% of subjects; 43.4% of these subjects had at least 1 CPPC, which was 4 times more often than in subjects without major depressive disorder (odds ratio [OR], 4.0; 95% CI, 3.5-4.7). In a logistic regression model, CPPC was strongly associated with major depressive disorder (OR: CPPC alone, 3.6; CPPC + nonpainful medical condition, 5.2); 24-hour presence of pain made an independent contribution to major depressive disorder diagnosis (OR, 1.6).

Conclusions: The presence of CPPCs increases the duration of depressive mood. Patients seeking consultation for a CPPC should be systematically evaluated for depression.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Portugal / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Probability
  • Risk Factors
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology