Psychosocial and Sensory Factors Contribute to Self-Reported Pain and Quality of Life in Young Adults with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Pain Manag Nurs. 2022 Oct;23(5):646-654.doi: 10.1016/j.pmn.2021.12.004. Epub 2022 Jan 21.


Jie Chen 1Zahra Amirkhanzadeh Barandouzi 2Joochul Lee 3Wanli Xu 4Bin Feng 5Angela Starkweather 4Xiaomei Cong 6


Author information

1University of Connecticut, School of Nursing, Storrs, Connecticut; Department of Pain and Translational Symptom Science, University of Maryland School of Nursing, Baltimore, Maryland.

2University of Connecticut, School of Nursing, Storrs, Connecticut; School of Nursing, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.

3Department of Statistics, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut.

4University of Connecticut, School of Nursing, Storrs, Connecticut.

5Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut.

6University of Connecticut, School of Nursing, Storrs, Connecticut. Electronic address: xiaomei.cong@uconn.edu.


Aims: Psychosocial and sensory factors, including anxiety, depression, and pressure pain threshold have been used to cluster chronic symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This study examined the contribution of psychosocial sensory factors on pain interference and quality of life (QOL) in this population.

Design: We performed a cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from a randomized controlled trial.

Settings: Two gastrointestinal clinics, general communities, and two large campuses of a public university in the Northeastern United States.

Participants/subjects: Eighty young adults with IBS aged 21 ± 2.57 years (76.25% female).

Methods: Demographic and psychosocial factors including anxiety, depression, fatigue, cognition or general concerns, sleep disturbance, self-efficacy, coping, and food intake were measured as independent variables. Quantitative sensory testing was conducted to measure mechanical, thermal, and pressure pain thresholds. Self-reported pain measured by the brief pain inventory (BPI) and IBS-QOL were assessed as the outcome variables. Regression analysis and mediation analysis were conducted to determine the associated factors of IBS pain and QOL.

Results: Age, sex, and psychosocial factors including coping, self-efficacy, alcohol intake, mechanical pain sensitivity, and cold pain threshold were significantly associated with pain interference (all p < 0.05). Coping, and self-efficacy were significantly associated with IBS-QOL (all p < 0.05). In the mediation analysis, coping catastrophizing and self-efficacy were indirectly associated with IBS-QOL mediated by fatigue.

Conclusions: Psychosocial factors including coping and self-efficacy, and quantitative sensory testing factors significantly correlate with self-reported pain and QOL among young adults with IBS. This preliminary research calls for further interventional studies that target personalized psychosocial and quantitative sensory factors to improve pain management and quality of life in IBS patients.


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