The effects of chronic pain on intimate relationships.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Past research has demonstrated that chronic pain is associated with depression, limitations in functioning, and coping styles. These variables were examined as possible moderating factors between chronic pain and relationship satisfaction in a sample of patients suffering from Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS), a chronic pain condition. A sample of couples with no health concerns was included in the study to determine whether the observed effects were due to the chronic pain. In order to differentiate the specific effects of chronic pain and a chronic health condition per se, a sample of diabetes patients and their partners was also examined. The results indicated that relationship satisfaction was lower in couples where one person had chronic pain or a chronic health condition than in those without one. Depression and passive coping strategies were higher in chronic pain and diabetes patients than in the other participants. Within couples where one member had a chronic health problem, both patients and their partners were found to lise less active coping strategies than those couples where neither had a chronic health issue. Chronic pain patients were more impaired on multiple areas of functioning than diabetes patients. Higher relationship satisfaction in chronic pain patients was strongly associated with lower depression in themselves and their partner, less impairment in social functioning and a greater impairment in communication, along with less use of passive coping by themselves and more use of passive coping by their partners. Better relationship satisfaction in chronic pain partners was associated with lower depression in themselves and the patient, more use of active coping by themselves and the patient, more use of passive coping by themselves and less use of passive coping by the patient. None of these variables were strongly associated with relationship satisfaction in the diabetes and control couples. The best predictors of relationship satisfaction in chronic pain patients were impainnents in social and communication functioning, along with their partners' level of depression and passive coping strategies. The chronic pain partners' own level of depression and passive coping strategies were the best predictors of their relationship satisfaction. Implicat ions of these findings for couples in which one partner has chronic pain are discussed, along with possible treatment options.