Childhood abuse, chronic pain, and depression in the National Comorbidity Survey

Child Abuse Negl. 2007 May;31(5):531-47. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2006.12.007.


Objective: The current study examined the effects of childhood sexual and physical abuse on reports of pain in men and women (N=1,727).

Methods: Data from the National Comorbidity Survey, a nationally representative sample, were utilized. Childhood experiences of physical and sexual abuse were assessed, and pain reports in relation to current health problems were obtained. Regression and mediation analyses were used to examine the relationship between childhood abuse and current pain reports and to determine whether depression mediated this relationship.

Results: Individuals who experienced abuse reported more health problems compared to those participants without abuse histories. Among participants with a current health problem, those who experienced abuse reported more pain compared to those participants without abuse histories. Because childhood abuse is associated with depression and depression is associated with more reported pain, the influence of depression on the relationship between childhood abuse and adult pain reports was examined. After controlling for differences between the abused and non-abused participants on specific health problems, depression was not found to have mediated the relationship.

Conclusions: Childhood abuse was associated with more reported pain. The higher rate of depression found among adults who experienced childhood abuse was not the primary factor for these increased pain reports. Rather, childhood abuse and depression independently contributed to pain reports. Treatment of both underlying problems (i.e., pain and depression) is recommended in addressing the needs of abused individuals with these comorbid disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*