Investigating Chronic Pain Management Among Emerging Adults
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Background: Emerging adulthood is the age between late teens into mid to late 20s. This transition is characterized by a lack of role permanence, where self-reliance and independence are sought. During this period, emerging adults with chronic pain struggle with achieving age-specific expectations while dealing with physical limitations imposed by their pain. Although frequently viewed as synonymous with the general adult population (ages 18-64), well documented differences including unstable societal roles and identity have been acknowledged in this group. This quantitative study is a descriptive analysis of demographic, pain characteristics, and management interventions of emerging adults accessing chronic pain care, an important first step in the inquiry process. Methods: Using retrospective chart review over a six-month period, 41 emerging adults (aged 18-29) and 41 middle aged adults (aged 30-64) receiving care from a chronic pain clinic in Southeastern Ontario were examined. Groups were matched based on sex and number of pain sites. Demographic and pain characteristics (severity, interference, self-efficacy, depressive symptoms, and catastrophizing), interventions, referrals, and clinic utilization were described. Group differences were examined using descriptive and multivariate analysis. Results: The emerging adult group were mostly female (66%) and the majority reported two or more pain sites (80%). While demographic, pain characteristics, and pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions were similar between groups, pain severity differed, t(80) = -2.15, p = 0.035, with middle aged adults reporting higher scores. Emerging adults more frequently received referrals for additional consultation and/or diagnostic investigations, compared to middle aged adults (X2 (1, N = 82) = 4.97, p = 0.026). Moreover, the number of psychology visits was significantly different between groups (X2 (1, N = 82) = 7.29, p = 0.007), with more emerging adults having at least one visit. When investigated using multivariate analysis, emerging adults with higher patient health questionnaire scores were more likely to see a psychologist (OR 1.23, 95% CI 1.014-1.492). Conclusion: Findings of this study inform our understanding of emerging adults who utilize chronic pain services. Further research is needed to better understand the efficacy of treatments offered and if current pain management approaches are meeting the needs of this population.