Pain is prevalent among adolescents and equally related to stress across genders
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionScandinavian Journal of Pain 2016, 12:100-107 10.1016/j.sjpain.2016.05.038
Background Young people seem increasingly disabled due to pain and stress. Pain and stress are health risks with adverse long-term health effects. Traditionally, these health risks have been most prevalent and strongest associated in females, also regarding children and adolescents. Main objectives in this study were to investigate current gender differences in musculoskeletal pain and perceived stress in adolescents aged 15 and 16 years with respect to prevalence and group differences for various aspects of stress and pain, and to explore the relationship between stress and pain, specified for gender. Methods A cross-sectional study was conducted with 17 participating public schools. The survey was administrated by the schools in accordance with given procedures, emphasizing the volunteer and anonymous participation of the pupils. Primary study measurements were pain and stress. The pain measurements addressed different aspects of musculoskeletal pain including pain sites, pain duration and pain intensity (measured by a Visual analogue scale; VAS). The stress instrument used was the Perceived stress questionnaire (PSQ) comprising different factors of stress, i.e. worries, tension, joy and demands. The secondary study measurement was body mass index (BMI). Results The study sample comprised 422 adolescents aged 15 and 16 years; 218 females and 204 males. The pain reporting was high in both genders, 57.3 per cent of the females and 44.6 per cent of the males. In general, the female adolescents reported more pain and stress, although several pain measures corresponded between genders. The pain prevalence was similar across genders with respect to lower extremity pain, back pain and arm pain. Lower extremity pain was the most frequent reported pain in both genders. More females reported head pain (Pearson Chi-Square 7.11, p = .008), severe pain (VAS ≥ 7, Pearson Chi-Square 13.12, p = .004) and moderate to severe stress (PSQ ≥ 0.45, Pearson Chi-Square 29.11, p < .001). Comparison analyses of the continuous pain and stress variables revealed significant mean (95% confidence interval [CI]) differences between genders for all stress variables with the highest mean scores in females. In both genders there were significant (p < .01) correlations between all the continuous pain and stress variables. In 9 out of 15 correlations, the stress-pain associations were strongest in males (Pearson product-moment correlation (r) between 0.34 and 0.38). Only in females, the body mass index (BMI) appeared associated (weakly) to pain and stress, in terms of pain intensity (VAS, r = 0.19) and lack of joy (as a factor of stress, r = 0.16). Conclusion Pain and stress were prevalent in the adolescent sample, with generally higher reporting among females. Several pain measures corresponded between genders, but stress differed significantly between genders for all variables. Scrutinizing the relationship between pain and stress revealed significant stress-pain associations regarding all variables across genders, i.e. the pain complaints among the adolescents seemed equally related to stress in males and females in the sample.