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Papers of the Week

Papers: 5 Mar 2022 - 11 Mar 2022


Human Studies

2022 Mar 07

J Pain

Trajectories and individual differences in pain, emotional distress, and prescription opioid misuse during the COVID-19 pandemic: A one-year longitudinal study.


Recent studies suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic can serve as a unique psychosocial stressor that can negatively impact individuals with chronic pain. Using a large online sample in the U.S., the present study sought to investigate the impact of the pandemic on the trajectories of pain severity and interference, emotional distress (i.e., anxiety and depressive symptoms), and opioid misuse behaviors across one year. Potential moderating effects of socio-demographic factors and individual differences in pain catastrophizing, pain acceptance, and sleep disturbance on outcome trajectories were also examined. Adults with chronic pain were surveyed three times across one year (April/May 2020 [N=1,453]; June/July 2020 [N=878], and May 2021 [N=813]) via Amazon's Mechanical Turk online crowdsourcing platform. Mixed-effects growth models revealed that pain severity and interference, emotional distress, and opioid misuse behaviors did not significantly deteriorate across one year during the pandemic. None of the socio-demographic factors, pain catastrophizing, or sleep disturbance moderated outcome trajectories. However, individuals with higher pain acceptance reported greater improvement in pain severity (p< .008, 95% CI: -.0002, -.00004) and depressive symptoms (p< .001, 95% CI: -.001, -.0004) over time. Our findings suggest that the negative impact of the pandemic on pain, emotional distress, and opioid misuse behaviors is quite small overall. The outcome trajectories were also stable across different socio-demographic factors, as well as individual differences in pain catastrophizing and sleep disturbance. Nevertheless, interventions that target improvement of pain acceptance may help individuals with chronic pain be resilient during the pandemic.