Monday, August 12, 2013

Youngsters' Chronic Abdominal Pain May Presage a Future of Worry

Chronic abdominal pain in childhood may forecast not only a long-term predilection to anxiety, but possibly to depression as well. This is the finding from a study published today in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The senior researcher was Lynn Walker, Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University.

Cross-sectional studies had already linked youngsters' chronic abdominal pain with anxiety and depression, but this appears to be the first long-term prospective study to do so. Three hundred-and-thirty-two children with recurrent abdominal pain, as well as 147 control subjects, were evaluated for anxiety and depression not only during adolescence, but into young adulthood—on average for 20 years.

By the time of follow-up in adolescence and young adulthood, half (51 percent) of the abdominal-pain group met criteria for an anxiety disorder at some point, and about one-third (30 percent) currently met criteria for an anxiety disorder. In contrast, only one-fifth (20 percent) of controls met criteria for an anxiety disorder at some point, and even less(12 percent) met criteria for a current anxiety disorder.

Regarding depressive disorder, the lifetime risk was significantly higher in the abdominal-pain group than in controls—40 percent versus 16 percent—but compared with anxiety disorders, current depressive disorders were rare at follow-up.

"This is an important study conducted by an outstanding group of researchers," John Campo, M.D., chair of psychiatry at Ohio State University, told Psychiatric News. Campo has conducted research on this subject in the past.  "A cross-sectional relationship between functional abdominal pain and anxiety has been noted in multiple studies in children, adolescents, and adults, but the nature of this observed 'comorbidity' is unclear....This study's findings that functional abdominal pain and anxiety are associated longitudinally into adulthood offers some support for the notion that functional abdominal pain and anxiety may share common risk factors or perhaps even be manifestations of a common disorder."

More information about the link between anxiety, depression, and stomach pain can be found in Psychiatric News.



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