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The co-occurrence of pain and depression in adults with multiple sclerosis


Alschuler KN, Ehde DM, Jensen MP



Publication Info:

Rehabilitation Psychology, 58(2):217-221


PURPOSE/OBJECTIVE: To define the rates of pain, depression, and their co-occurrence in persons with multiple sclerosis (MS).
RESEARCH METHOD/DESIGN: Participants were 161 persons with MS who previously participated in research and indicated a willingness to be contacted for future studies. Data were collected via postal survey and included the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 for depressive symptoms and a numerical rating scale (0-10) for pain. Descriptive statistics, chi-square analyses, and odds ratios were calculated to describe the prevalence, difference, and likelihood of depression, pain, and their comorbidity.
RESULTS: Some level of pain was experienced by 73% of the sample, with 40% of the entire sample reporting moderate or worse pain severity. Clinically significant levels of depressive symptoms were reported by 22% of the sample, and 8% reported sufficient symptoms to meet major depressive episode diagnostic criteria. Of persons meeting depression criteria, 86-100% reported experiencing any pain; 67-77% of persons meeting depression criteria reported experiencing pain of at least moderate severity. Of persons experiencing any pain, 11-34% met depression criteria; 15-37% of persons experiencing pain of at least moderate severity met depression criteria.
CONCLUSIONS/IMPLICATIONS: Pain and depression co-occur frequently in persons with MS. However, it is more common for individuals with depression to report pain than for individuals with pain to endorse symptoms of depression. Future studies should explore the implications of this co-occurrence, such as whether these individuals experience greater levels of disability, higher medical costs, or fewer benefits from treatment than persons with either condition alone.

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