Predictors of psychological distress in chronic pain patients


Dr Walker School of Health and Community Studies, KingAlfred’s College, Winchester SO22 4NR, England.


The purpose of this study was to identify sources of psychological distress in patients attending pain clinics. Patients attending two pain clinics in the UK completed a self-report assessment questionnaire which included a 12-item, 5-point semantic differential measure of psychological well-being/distress, together with a range of single-item measures of pain and psychosocial factors measured using 5-point verbal report scales. Multiple regression analysis identified that 60% of the variance associated with psychological distress was explained by a combination of fears about the future, regrets about the past, age (younger people were more distressed), practical help (more help was associated with more distress), feeling unoccupied and personal relationship problems. These results support previous findings which have suggested that a significant proportion of the emotional disturbance in chronic pain patients is associated with psychosocial factors which are either secondary to, or concurrent with, the pain. The method described provides a simple and quick method of assessment which may be used by nurses in clinical settings to identify sources of psychological distress in patients with chronic pain and opportunities for therapeutic intervention.