Mental Health Disorders May Precede Chronic Pain in Teens

Mental health is often overshadowed by physical health. Will this new research change the game? 


When mental health and physical health are pitted against each other, physical health seems to always reign superior, garnering more professional attention and less stigmatization. But a recent study published in The Journal of Pain suggests that these two health concentrations are more connected than we may think.

Scientists found that mental health disorders tend to precede the onset of chronic pain in adolescents.  

In a survey of over 6,000 teens, just over 25 percent reported that they had experienced some type of chronic pain and some type of mental disorder in their lifetime thus far. All types of chronic pain were found to relate to mental disorders, such as anxiety disorders preceding chronic back and neck pain and headaches, for example.

Chronic pain was not found to foreshadow mental health disorders; only the inverse was true.

The research team explained in the study that while their findings suggest a causal link between mental health disorders and chronic pain, more research is needed to confirm. 

“Our results corroborate and extend knowledge about the link between chronic pain and mental disorders in adults, which suggests that this relationship forms as early as childhood through adolescence, with an increasing level of comorbidity in adulthood.”

To learn more about living with a mental health disorder, read these in-depth explorations of real teens diagnosed with anxiety and depression, then consult our list of the 33 best online heath resources for teens