Anxiety-related psychopathology and chronic pain comorbidity among public safety personnel

Carleton, R. Nicholas
Afifi, Tracie, O
Taillieu, Tamara
Turner, Sarah
El-Gabalawy, Renee
Sareen, Jitender
Asmundson, Gordon
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Canadian Public Safety Personnel (PSP; e.g., correctional service officers, dispatchers, firefighters, paramedics, police officers) regularly experience potentially traumatic, painful, and injurious events. Such exposures increase risk for developing mental disorders and chronic pain, which both involve substantial personal and social costs. The interrelationship between mental disorders and chronic pain is well-established, and both can be mutually maintaining; accordingly, understanding the relationship between mental health and chronic pain among PSP is important for improving health care. Unfortunately, the available research on such comorbidity for PSP is sparse. The current study was designed to provide initial estimates of comorbidities between mental disorders and chronic pain across diverse PSP. Participants included 5093 PSP (32% women) in six categories (i.e., Call Center Operators/Dispatchers, Correctional Workers, Firefighters, Municipal/Provincial Police, Paramedics, Royal Canadian Mounted Police) who participated in a large PSP mental health survey. The survey included established self-report measures for mental disorders and chronic pain. In the total sample, 23.1% of respondents self-reported clinically significant comorbid concerns with both mental disorders and chronic pain. The results indicated PSP who reported chronic pain were significantly more likely to screen positive for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and alcohol use disorder. There were differences between PSP categories; but, the most consistent indications of comorbidity were for chronic pain, PTSD, and major depressive disorder. Comorbidity between chronic pain and mental disorders among PSP is prevalent. Health care providers should regularly assess PSP for both symptom domains.

© 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (
Pain, Chronic pain, Comorbidity, First responders, Public safety personnel, Mental health disorders
Carleton, R. N., Afifi, T. O., Taillieu, T., Turner, S., Sareen, J., El-Gabalawy, R., & Asmundson, G. J. G. (2018). Anxiety-Related Psychopathology and Chronic Pain Comorbidity Among Public Safety Personnel. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 55, 48-55.