Back pain link to increased mental health issues

Published: 1 December 2016 at 11:30

Woman with back pain

Study into relationship between physical and mental health is largest of its kind

A study of almost 200,000 people reveals that those experiencing back pain are significantly more likely to suffer from a range of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, stress and psychosis.

The multi-national research, published in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, was carried out by Anglia Ruskin University and explores the likelihood of people with back pain and chronic back pain suffering from a variety of mental health disorders.

The study shows people with back pain are at least twice as likely to have one of the five mental health conditions (depression, anxiety, stress, psychosis and sleep deprivation) analysed in the study compared to those who do not have back pain. Those with chronic back pain were often at even higher risk.

People with chronic back pain were approximately three times more likely to experience a depressive episode. The same group were also 2.6 times more likely to experience psychosis.

Results were broadly similar across all 43 countries in which the study took place. In total, 190,595 people were surveyed for the research, making the study the largest of its kind to date.

The research was undertaken by Professor Patricia Schofield and Dr Brendon Stubbs, of Anglia Ruskin University, along with several other international collaborators.

Dr Stubbs said: 

“Our data shows that both back pain and chronic back pain are associated with an increased likelihood of depression, psychosis, anxiety, stress and sleep disturbances. 

“This suggests that back pain has important mental health implications which may make recovery from back pain more challenging. The exact reasons for this are yet to be established. 

“Further research is required to find out more about the links between these problems, and to ensure effective treatments can be developed. It is also important that healthcare professionals are made aware of this link to refer patients to other services if necessary.”