Incident Chronic Spinal Pain and Depressive Disorders: Data From the National Comorbidity Survey

Published:November 21, 2018DOI:


      This study examined pre-existing depression as a risk factor for the development of chronic spinal pain, and pre-existing chronic spinal pain as a risk factor for the development of depression. Data from the National Comorbidity Survey, a stratified sample of 5,001 participants evaluated in 1990 to 1992 (NCS-1) and again in 2000 to 2001 (NCS-2) were used to address these associations. Cox regression was used to estimate hazard ratios and time-to-incidence after NCS-1. Participants with antecedent acute or chronic depressive disorders at NCS-1 were more likely to develop chronic spinal pain in the ensuing 10 years compared with participants without depressive disorders. Those with antecedent chronic spinal pain at NCS-1 were more likely to develop dysthymic disorder than subjects without chronic spinal pain at NCS-1; however, antecedent chronic spinal pain was not associated the subsequent development of major depressive disorder. These results suggest that both pain and depression are associated with the development of the other condition. In particular, chronic depression is more strongly linked to chronic spinal pain than is acute depression. The results are discussed in terms of the need to assess the presence of both disorders given the presence of one.


      Chronic spinal pain and depressive disorders, especially chronic depression, increase the likelihood for the subsequent development of the other condition. The results underscore the need to routinely assess for the presence of both disorders given the presence of one to mitigate the effects of developing comorbid conditions.

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