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Wayne State University research study finds risk of chronic pain in persons with depression is greatest in middle-age women

June 24, 2009

DETROIT-It is a well-known fact that depression and chronic pain often occur together, but researchers at Wayne State University have discovered that the link between the two is strongest in middle-age women.

The study, supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Urban Studies at WSU, published in the June 2009 Journal of Pain, showed that study participants with the prevalence of chronic pain with a duration of six months or more due to any cause was 22 percent, and that 35 percent of those with chronic pain also had depression.

The nearly 1,200 participants from Michigan were typically older, female, employed less than full-time and less educated than persons without either condition. Also noted was that depression tends to decrease with age, while pain tends to increase.

From the data, the researchers concluded that depression could increase vulnerability to experiencing persistent pain, and that middle-age women were the most susceptible.  Of those with chronic pain, younger participants and African Americans, African Americans were more likely to also have depression. While the study did not offer conclusive data for these differences, it is suggested that a variety of factors such as coping strategies, education, employment and financial status play a role.

"My student, Lisa Miller, and I conducted the study to estimate the prevalence and risk factors of chronic pain and depression in Michigan," commented Annmarie Cano, Ph.D., of Huntington Woods, Mich., principal investigator on the project and associate professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Science.  "Our results point to a critical need for assessing depression in patients with chronic pain."

The study concludes that with such high numbers of incidence, screening of patients with chronic pain for depression is critical, and also important in African American patients with pain. The public needs education about the extent of depression in people with chronic pain, and ways to find treatment regardless of insurance status, Cano said.

"Depression and other mental instabilities are illnesses often overlooked and disregarded by the medical and governmental communities," commented Hilary Ratner, Ph.D., vice president for research at WSU.  "It is critical to improve access to care, particularly in urban areas such as Detroit, where high incidences of such problems go untreated."

For the complete study visit http://www.sciencedirect.com/ .

Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting, ranking in the top 50 in R & D expenditures of all public universities by the National Science Foundation. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world.  www.research.wayne.edu

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