The frequency, trajectories and predictors of adolescent recurrent pain: a population-based approach

Pain. 2008 Aug 15;138(1):11-21. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2007.10.032. Epub 2008 Feb 21.


Recurrent pains are a complex set of conditions that cause great discomfort and impairment in children and adults. The objectives of this study were to (a) describe the frequency of headache, stomachache, and backache in a representative Canadian adolescent sample and (b) determine whether a set of psychosocial factors, including background factors (i.e., sex, pubertal status, parent chronic pain), external events (i.e., injury, illness/hospitalization, stressful-life events), and emotional factors (i.e., anxiety/depression, self-esteem) were predictive of these types of recurrent pain. Statistics Canada's National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth was used to assess a cohort of 2488 10- to 11-year-old adolescents up to five times, every 2 years. Results showed that, across 12-19 years of age, weekly or more frequent rates ranged from 26.1%-31.8% for headache, 13.5-22.2% for stomachache, and 17.6-25.8% for backache. Chi-square tests indicated that girls had higher rates of pain than boys for all types of pain, at all time points. Structural equation modeling using latent growth curves showed that sex and anxiety/depression at age 10-11 years was predictive of the start- and end-point intercepts (i.e., trajectories that indicated high levels of pain across time) and/or slopes (i.e., trajectories of pain that increased over time) for all three types of pain. Although there were also other factors that predicted only certain pain types or certain trajectory types, overall the results of this study suggest that adolescent recurrent pain is very common and that psychosocial factors can predict trajectories of recurrent pain over time across adolescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution