The relationship between chronic pain and poor psychological health has been well established. However a new Statistics Canada study, Chronic pain, activity restriction and flourishing mental health, suggests that both pain intensity as well as pain-related activity prevention play a direct role in the impact of chronic pain on mental health. In particular, the author sought to examine whether the experience of chronic pain contributes indirectly to mental illness by limiting day-to-day activities, thereby increasing psychological distress. Through a detailed analysis of data from the 2011/2012 Canadian Community Health Survey, the report found that individuals with chronic pain were less likely to have flourishing mental health than were people without chronic pain (69 percent versus 79 percent). Pain intensity and pain-related activity prevention were each independently associated with flourishing mental health, even when sociodemographic and health factors were taken into account.
Furthermore, among people with chronic pain, the prevalence of flourishing mental health declined as pain intensity and the number of activities prevented by pain increased (Fig.1).
The data suggests that while pain-related activity prevention does contribute to poor mental health, an independent effect of chronic pain on mental health exists as well.
CMHA Ontario is a member of the Ontario Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance (OCDPA), an alliance of provincial organizations involved in health promotion and chronic disease prevention. Within OCDPA, CMHA Ontario has been involved in developing key messages on mental health as a risk factor for chronic disease and raising awareness in the chronic disease prevention community of the issues related to mental health and chronic disease.
To read the full report, visit the Statistics Canada website.