Adults living with spinal cord injuries are about 80 percent more likely to develop psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety than non-traumatic ones, according to a new study. But it also suggested that chronic pain could have an equally large, negative effect on mental health.
The study was published in Spinal Cord by a team of Michigan Medicine-led researchers who analyzed the private insurance claims of more than 9,000 adults and more than 1 million adults with traumatic spinal cord injury.
They are responsible for a range of psychological conditions ranging from anxiety and mood disorders to insomnia and dementia. People living with a spinal cord injury were diagnosed with a mental health condition more often than those without a trauma – 59.1 percent vs. 30.9 percent.
While depression and adverse mental health effects are not inevitable consequences of every traumatic spinal cord injury, past findings have echoed a consistently higher level of psychological illness in this group than in the general population without spinal cord injuries.
This study, however, found that in adults living with spinal cord injury, chronic centralized and neuropathic pain was strongly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorders, and other mental health conditions. In most cases, chronic pain has an even greater impact on these conditions than living with trauma.
The researchers said the findings should encourage physicians to identify mental health conditions when referring patients with spinal cord injuries and refer them to mental health providers for treatment.
Mark Peterson, lead author of the paper and associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, PhD, said, “This high-risk population needs improved clinical efforts to diagnose and treat both chronic pain and psychological health.” Michigan Medicine.
However, the researchers noted that this problem could be largely addressed due to the lack of insurance coverage and limited availability of services.
“Stakeholders need to work together to lobby for more federal research funding and special policy reforms to ensure adequate and long-term insurance coverage for both physical and mental health to meet the needs of people living with spinal cord injuries,” Peterson said. “