Do pain problems in young school children persist into early adulthood? A 13-year follow-up

Eur J Pain. 2004 Jun;8(3):187-99. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2003.08.001.


Design: In a longitudinal study, 335 children ages 8, 11 and 14, first studied in 1989 were followed-up on two occasions in 1991 and 2002. The subjects filled in questionnaires on pain, the first two times in school, the last as a postal survey.

Purposes: To determine if headache and back pain during the school years were transitory or if they grew into pain problems in adulthood; to determine predictors of pain.

Results: In the 2002 study, 59% of the women and 39% of the men reported pain at 21, 24 and 27 years. A total of 68 (52 women, 16 men) or 20% of the subjects reported pain symptoms in all three studies. The cumulative incidence rate for the presence of pain in the cohort studied was 31% for 1989-2002 and 43% for 1991-2002. Four of the 10 individuals with pain also reported signs of stress. Three predictors were found: reported back pain in 8-14-year-olds (p < 0.0001); reported headaches once a week or more in the same age group (p < 0.0001); and a positive response in the ages 10-16 to the question: "Do you often feel nervous?" (OR=2.1, 95% CI 1.3-3.4). When adjusted for age, sex and all psychosocial risk determinants studied in multiple logistic regression, a positive answer to this question was a significant predictor of pain in young adulthood. A positive response by the 10-16-year-olds to "Do you find it difficult to describe your feelings?" was a predictor of pathological anxiety in early adulthood, but stress perceived in childhood/adolescence did not predict future pain or stress.

Conclusions: Since pain reports in childhood and early adolescence seem to be associated with the report of pain in early adulthood, more attention should be given to the way ill-health is managed in adolescence in this vulnerable group.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Causality
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Headache / epidemiology
  • Headache / psychology
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Quality of Life
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Sweden / epidemiology