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Approved research

The relationship between pain, social exclusion, anxiety, depression and related psychological problems.

Principal Investigator: Professor Christina Van der Feltz-Cornelis
Approved Research ID: 49442
Approval date: June 18th 2019

Lay summary

Persistent distressing pain presents a huge burden for both individuals and society. It is associated with psychological problems including depression, poor sleep and suicidality. Social exclusion is a term which incorporates a number of factors including people's social status, financial situation, roles within the community and access to services (e.g. health, education etc.)10 Social exclusion and loneliness are associated with a higher likelihood of persistent pain. Painful feelings associated with social rejection may share some of the same pathways in the brain as physical pain. Persistent pain can lead to psychological problems, and psychological problems can make pain worse. Over half of pain patients suffer from sleep problems. Up to 85% also report depression or anxiety, and persistent pain is a major risk factor for suicide. Research has shown that anxious feelings associated with social exclusion and loneliness are widely associated with sleep disorders, depression and risk of suicide. Although previous studies using biobank data have identified relationships between poor sleep, psychological problems and pain, the links with social exclusion and loneliness have not yet been explored. Therefore, given the existing evidence of complex relationships between these factors, further research examining how they interact is required so we can further understand their relative importance in the development and course of persistent pain. Hence exploring these links in UKBiobank data will be of benefit to public health in the UK. This will potentially inform the future development of novel treatment strategies for chronic pain patients, but also the prevention of chronic pain development in persons feeling disconnected from society.