AbstractBackgroundWhile lower socioeconomic status increases individual’s risk for chronic conditions, little is known about how long-term social assistance recipients (LTRs) with multiple chronic health problems experience chronic pain and/or psychological distress. Social assistance is the last safety net in the Norwegian welfare system and individuals have a legal right to economic assistance if they are unable to support themselves or are entitled to other types of benefits. The purposes of this study were to determine the co-occurrence of both chronic pain and psychological distress and to evaluate for differences in demographic and social characteristics, as well as health-related quality of life, among LTRs.MethodsThis descriptive, cross-sectional study surveyed people receiving long-term social assistance in Norway about their health and social functioning from January-November 2005. The social welfare authority offices in each of 14 municipalities in Norway were responsible to locate the LTRs who met the study’s inclusion criteria. The selected municipalities provided geographic variability including both rural and urban municipalities in different parts of the country. LTRs were included in this study if they: had received social assistance as their main source of income for at least 6 of the last 12 months; were between 18 and 60 years of age; and were able to complete the study questionnaire. In this study, 405 LTRs were divided into four groups based on the presence or absence of chronic pain and/or psychological distress. (1) Neither chronic pain nor psychological distress (32%, n = 119), (2) only chronic pain (12%, n = 44), (3) only psychological distress and (24%, n = 87), (4) both chronic pain and psychological distress (32%, n =119).ResultsExcept for age and marital status, no differences were found between groups in demographic characteristics. Significant differences were found among the four groups on all of the items related to childhood difficulties before the age of 16, except the item on sexual abuse. LTRs with both chronic pain and psychological distress were more likely to have experienced economic problems in their childhood home; other types of abuse than sexual abuse; long-term bullying; and had more often dropped out of school than LTRs with neither chronic pain nor psychological distress. LTRs with both chronic pain and psychological distress, reported more alcohol and substance use/illicit drug use, more feelings of loneliness and a lower mental score on SF-12 than LTRs with only chronic pain.Conclusions and implicationsCo-occurrence of chronic pain and psychological distress is common in LTRs and problems in early life are associated with the co-occurrence of chronic pain and psychological distress in adult life. Although this study cannot assign a clear direction or causality to the association between social and demographic characteristics and chronic pain and psychological distress, the findings when examining LTRs’ problems in childhood before the age of 16, indicated that incidents in early life create a probability of chronic pain and psychological distress in the adult life of the individuals. Further studies should use life course studies and longitudinal data in to investigate these important questions in LTRs.
Scandinavian Journal of Pain – de Gruyter
Published: Apr 1, 2016
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