A longitudinal study of bidirectional associations between frequent pain and insomnia symptoms in adolescents



      Chronic pain and insomnia symptoms are prevalent in adolescents. This study examined the prospective associations between pain and insomnia symptoms in a large sample of adolescents.


      A total of 7072 adolescents (mean age = 14.6 years) participated in a longitudinal study of behavior and health in Shandong, China. A baseline survey was conducted in November-December of 2015, and a follow-up survey was conducted one year later. A self-administered questionnaire was used to assess headache, stomachache, other nonspecific pain, depression, substance use, and family environment. The Youth Self-Rating Insomnia Scale was used to measure insomnia symptoms.


      At baseline and 1-year follow-up, frequent pain was reported by 8.4% and 7.8% of the sample, respectively; moderate to severe insomnia symptoms were reported by 15.2% and 14.8%, respectively. Logistic regression analyses showed that frequent pain at baseline was significantly associated with increased odds of incident insomnia symptoms at 1-year follow-up (odds ratio [OR] = 1.70, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.23-2.34) while adjusting for adolescent and family covariates. On the other hand, insomnia symptoms at baseline were significantly associated with increased odds of incident frequent pain at 1-year follow-up (OR = 2.00, 95% CI = 1.50-2.68). The 3 types of pain (ie, headache, stomachache, and other nonspecific pain) had similar associations with insomnia symptoms.


      The findings suggest that the associations between frequent pain and insomnia are bidirectional, independent of multiple adolescent and family covariates. These findings stress the importance of assessment and management of both pain and insomnia symptoms in adolescents in routine clinical practice and school-based intervention programs.


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