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25-03-2012 | Psychology | Article

Parental chronic pain linked to depression, anxiety in children

Abstract

Free abstract

MedWire News: The children of parents with chronic pain are at increased risk for suffering anxiety and depression, a Norwegian study suggests.

The insights from the study "should prove useful in further clinical work and large-scale research," say Jannike Kaasbøll (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim) and colleagues in Pain.

Kaasbøll's team investigated associations between parental chronic pain and psychologic symptoms in adolescents and their parents who participated in the cross-sectional Nord Trøndelag Health Study.

A total of 3227 adolescents aged 13-18 years, and their parents, were surveyed between 2006 and 2008. In all, 838 (27%) of mothers and 725 (24%) of fathers reported suffering from chronic pain.

Kaasbøll's team divided the children into four groups: those with a mother with chronic pain (n=608); those with a father with chronic pain (n=495); those with both parents with chronic pain (n=230); and those with neither parent with chronic pain (n=1740). The latter served as the reference group.

The children were assessed for anxiety and depression using the Hopkins Symptom Checklist (SCL-5), which includes questions about how they felt in the previous 14 days.

The researchers then compared the prevalence of psychologic symptoms across the four parental pain groups, analyzing girls and boys separately.

In girls, the risk for anxiety/depression was significantly increased in those with a mother and father with chronic pain (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=1.88), while the risk for conduct problems was significantly increased in those whose mother had chronic pain (AOR=1.32), compared with the reference group.

In boys, the risk for anxiety/depression was increased in those with a mother and father with chronic pain (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=1.96), while the risk for conduct problems was significantly increased in those whose mother had chronic pain (AOR=1.27), compared with the reference group.

Kaasbøll and co-authors say that their study indicates that parental chronic pain is associated with around a twofold increased risk for psychologic symptoms in the children.

"The study expands existing knowledge by specifying the effects on the offspring if only mothers, only fathers, or both parents have chronic pain," the researchers remark.

"These results increase awareness of the increased risk of emotional symptoms in adolescence, especially if mothers and fathers both experience chronic pain."

By Joanna Lyford

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