Psychosocial and Sensory Factors Contribute to Self-Reported Pain and Quality of Life in Young Adults with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Pain Manag Nurs. 2022 Oct;23(5):646-654. doi: 10.1016/j.pmn.2021.12.004. Epub 2022 Jan 21.


Aims: Psychosocial and sensory factors, including anxiety, depression, and pressure pain threshold have been used to cluster chronic symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This study examined the contribution of psychosocial sensory factors on pain interference and quality of life (QOL) in this population.

Design: We performed a cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from a randomized controlled trial.

Settings: Two gastrointestinal clinics, general communities, and two large campuses of a public university in the Northeastern United States.

Participants/subjects: Eighty young adults with IBS aged 21 ± 2.57 years (76.25% female).

Methods: Demographic and psychosocial factors including anxiety, depression, fatigue, cognition or general concerns, sleep disturbance, self-efficacy, coping, and food intake were measured as independent variables. Quantitative sensory testing was conducted to measure mechanical, thermal, and pressure pain thresholds. Self-reported pain measured by the brief pain inventory (BPI) and IBS-QOL were assessed as the outcome variables. Regression analysis and mediation analysis were conducted to determine the associated factors of IBS pain and QOL.

Results: Age, sex, and psychosocial factors including coping, self-efficacy, alcohol intake, mechanical pain sensitivity, and cold pain threshold were significantly associated with pain interference (all p < 0.05). Coping, and self-efficacy were significantly associated with IBS-QOL (all p < 0.05). In the mediation analysis, coping catastrophizing and self-efficacy were indirectly associated with IBS-QOL mediated by fatigue.

Conclusions: Psychosocial factors including coping and self-efficacy, and quantitative sensory testing factors significantly correlate with self-reported pain and QOL among young adults with IBS. This preliminary research calls for further interventional studies that target personalized psychosocial and quantitative sensory factors to improve pain management and quality of life in IBS patients.

Keywords: Fatigue; Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Pain; Quality of Life; Quantitative sensory testing.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fatigue / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome* / complications
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome* / psychology
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult