We all know the dip we experience in our mood when we suffer from a minor injury, say, a fall that leads to scuffed knees and palms. This might be a brief bad mood, but what about when an injury or condition leads to chronic pain? It makes sense that this type of pain would also affect our mood, but how are chronic pain and mental health related, and what can we do to treat both?

How does chronic pain affect mental health? 

Chronic pain and mental health syndromes are considered bi-directional, that is, either can lead to the other. It can be difficult to pinpoint which condition causes which, but each certainly increases the intensity of both.

Consider this: a car accident leaves a previously healthy, active person with lingering lower back pain. This lower back pain does not go away, worsening and transitioning from acute to chronic pain when it lasts longer than three months. The pain becomes so intense that the person has difficulty sleeping, going to work, and generally participating in daily life including leisure activities. It follows that a person’s mental health would suffer under these conditions, especially if treatments for pain are ineffective or come with side effects.

Or the other side of the coin: a major depressive episode leaves another person unable to motivate themselves to do the things they normally love, like see friends, go for walks, or play with their dog. As they become more sedentary, the person’s body begins to ache and stiffen. Perhaps this leads to an injury due to exertion, and then chronic pain makes itself known.

Whether the pain comes before the mood disorder, or the mood disorder worsens the pain, we know that these two conditions are linked, serious, and require a multi-pronged treatment approach.

Chronic pain and mental health statistics 

Unfortunately, exact chronic pain and mental health statistics can be difficult to come by. This is due to the sometimes-hidden nature of mental health conditions, as well as inconsistencies with patient reporting.

Regardless, here are some chronic pain and mental health statistics that are important to know.

Who suffers from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and chronic pain

Just over 7% of the U.S. population suffers from major depressive disorder, with women twice as likely to develop depression than men. Anxiety is the most common mood disorder in the U.S., with an estimated 40 million people over 18 suffering from this condition. Of those, fewer than 40% receive treatment. Around half of those suffering from depression also have an anxiety diagnosis.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, once considered a “soldier’s disease” is also widespread in the U.S. An estimated 7-8% of people in the U.S. suffer from PTSD after a traumatic event, with women more likely to suffer than men.

Bringing it all together is chronic pain. Estimates vary, but most agree that approximately 20% of people in the U.S. have chronic pain at any given time. People living in poverty, with a high school diploma or less, and those with public health insurance are more likely to experience chronic pain.

Troubling studies are also bringing together a racial component to who suffers from chronic pain and mental health challenges. B