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Back Pain Can Raise Risk of Getting Mental Health Problems

Back pain is the leading cause of disability in the world and it causes more disability than any other condition. A study made by the“Global Burden of Disease” shows that lower back pain affects 1 in 10 people. Back pain can be quite painful, it negatively affects on the quality of life and it increases the risk of getting other physical problems.

One study from the World Mental Health Survey showed that neck pain and chronic back pain can increase the risk of alcohol abuse, anxiety disorders and mood disorders. Unfortunately, not many studies are done to investigate the link between back pain and mental health outcomes in middle and low income countries.

The journal “General Hospital Psychiatry” recently published the largest study that investigated the connection between psychological illness and back pain. The research team was led by Prof. Patricia Schofield and Dr. Brendon Stubbs from the University of the United Kingdom. The researchers took the data from 190.595 people older than 18, people from across 43 countries. 24 of these countries were middle-income and 19 were low-income.

The research team took the data from the World Health Survey 2002-2004, a project that was set by the “World Health Organization” to generate information on the health of adult populations and health systems.

The research showed that 35.1% of the population struggle with back pain while 6.9% suffer from chronic back pain. Out of all countries, China had the lowest levels of people affected with back pain- 13.7%. Nepal was the country with the highest levels of people affected with back pain- 57.1%, 53.1% in Bangladeshis and 52% in Brazil.

The Connection Between Mental Health and Back Pain

The study showed that people who suffer from back pain were more than twice likely to suffer from 1 of these 5 mental health conditions- depression, psychosis, anxiety, sleep deprivation and stress. People who suffer from chronic back pain are 3 times more likely to suffer a depressive episode and experience psychosis.

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,” explains Dr. Stubbs.


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