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Papers: 22 Jun 2024 - 28 Jun 2024

2024 Jun 25



Adolescent predictors of young adult pain and health outcomes: results from a 6-year prospective follow-up study.


Murray CB, Li R, Kashikar-Zuck S, Zhou C, Palermo TM


Adolescent chronic pain may lead to persistent disability and long-term health impairments in adulthood. However, our understanding of which youth are more likely to experience adverse outcomes remains limited. To address this gap, this longitudinal cohort study examined adolescent predictors of various dimensions of young adult health and functioning, including pain, physical health, depression, anxiety, social isolation, and sleep disturbance. As part of a previous clinical trial, we recruited a cohort of adolescents (ages 11-17 years, M age = 14 years) with non-disease-related chronic pain from 15 tertiary pain clinics in North America. Approximately 6 years later, 229 of the original 273 individuals (81% participation rate) completed a follow-up survey as young adults (ages 18-25 years, M age = 21 years). At the young adult follow-up, 73% reported continued chronic pain, with two-thirds experiencing moderate-to-severe pain interference. Youth reported several adverse health outcomes, including below-average physical health (37%), clinically elevated depression (42%), clinically elevated anxiety (48%), and sleep disturbances (77%). Multivariate regression analyses controlling for sociodemographic characteristics revealed that higher pain intensity, more pain locations, lower sleep quality, and greater anxiety symptoms in adolescence predicted worse pain outcomes in young adulthood. Moreover, lower sleep quality, greater anxiety symptoms, and worse family functioning predicted worse physical and psychosocial health in adulthood. These findings represent an important first step toward identifying ways to optimize psychological pain interventions. Tailored psychological pain interventions can directly target adolescent vulnerabilities, including mood, sleep, and family risk factors, with the potential to disrupt a lifelong trajectory of pain and suffering.