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Background: Chronic pain and depression are closely related conditions, which commonly exist as comorbid disorders. Understanding the prevalence of depression in patients presenting with chronic pain is vital for effective pain management.
Aim: Our study aimed to establish the prevalence of a history of depression in patients presenting with chronic pain to a chronic pain management clinic at a tertiary academic hospital and to describe the characteristics of patients with both conditions.
Setting: Groote Schuur Hospital, Chronic Pain Management Clinic, Cape Town, South Africa.
Method: A retrospective review of 665 medical charts of consecutive patients accessing the clinic over a 7-year period was conducted. Baseline, patient-centred data were collected.
Results: Of the 665 charts, 623 were analysed. The median age of patients was 53 years. The prevalence of depression in patients presenting with chronic pain was 32%, three times higher than the national life-time prevalence in South Africa. The majority (77%) of patients with chronic pain and depression were female (p < 0.01). Overall, 51% of the patients assessed were unemployed with low levels of education. The majority of our study patients had received a tricyclic antidepressant at some time prior to presentation.
Conclusion: The high prevalence of a history of depression in patients presenting with chronic pain in our study, emphasises the importance of looking for and understanding the interrelation of the physiological, psychiatric, psychological and socio-economic factors that are common to both depression and chronic pain. Pain relief alone is insufficient to ensure optimal rehabilitation of these patients and integrating the management of their depression should improve patient outcomes and overall well-being.