Trajectories of pain and anxiety in a longitudinal cohort of adolescent twins



Battaglia M, Garon-Carrier G, Brendgen M, Feng B, Dionne G, Vitaro F, Tremblay RE, Boivin M. (2020). Trajectories of pain and anxiety in a longitudinal cohort of adolescent twins. Depression and Anxiety, 37, 475-484.

Background: Adolescence is critical to intercept chronic/persistent pain and decipher its association with anxiety. We ascertained adolescent pain trajectories, their demographic and clinical correlates, the longitudinal association with opiate prescriptions at age 19, and the etiology of the covariation between adolescent pain problems and anxiety symptoms. Methods: Longitudinal assessment of: 6 common pain problems at age 12, 13, 14, 15, and 17 years; 7 common anxiety symptoms at age 12, 13, and 14 years; opiates’ prescriptions at age 19, in the Quebec Newborn Twin Study birth cohort of 667 twin pairs born between 1995–1998. Results: Analyses yielded three trajectories of: “none‐to‐minimal” (34.3%), “sporadic” (56.7%), and “frequent” (9.0%) pain problems between age 12–17. Anxiety (odds ratios [OR] ORage12: 2.38; confidence interval [CI]: 1.26–4.47; ORage13: 3.96; CI: 1.73–9.05; ORage14: 5.45; CI: 2.67–11.11), the female sex (OR: 3.69; CI: 2.20–6.21), and lower socioeconomic status (OR: 0.87; CI: 0.77–0.98) were associated with the “frequent” compared to the “none‐to‐minimal” pain trajectory. Only the “frequent” pain trajectory predicted opioid prescriptions at age 19 (OR: 4.14; CI: 1.16–14.55). A twin bivariate latent growth curve model and a cross‐lagged model showed that genetic factors and non‐shared environmental factors common to both phenotypes influence the longitudinal association between anxiety and adolescent pain problems. Conclusions: The relatively common, adolescent “frequent pain” trajectory predicts early opioid prescriptions, and anxiety and adolescent pain share multiple etiological components. These data can inform diagnostic reasoning, clinical practice, and help reducing opioid prescriptions and abuse.