Pain and college adjustment study
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BACKGROUND: Health issues facing university students have been an area of increasing concern, with the frequency of anxiety and depression-related disorders rising significantly over the past few years. One characteristic that has been given increasing attention is perfectionism and its contribution to compromised mental functioning. Student health has generally been found to be poor compared to their working counterparts; however, the prevalence and influence of pain among university students still remains misunderstood. This study aims to investigate the co-occurrence of pain and mental health problems, specifically the role of perfectionism, in young adults, aged 18-26, attending college or university within the United States. METHODS: 105 University students from across the United States were recruited to participate in an online survey. Frequency of pain complaints, prevalence of common body areas of pain, and intensity of pain were assessed. Pain behavior, pain interference, anxiety, depression, and self-efficacy were assessed by validated PROMIS measures. Trait dimensions of perfectionism were assessed and analyzed in relation to the other characteristics being evaluated. Group differences between pain groups (no pain vs. pain present; both chronic and non-chronic pain) were assessed using independent samples t-tests. Significant associations between measured variables were determined using bivariate correlations. RESULTS: More than half of the sample displayed clinical levels of anxiety. 76% of the sample reported feeling pain in at least one area of their body, with 72% of the pain group experiencing chronic pain. The pain group had greater anxiety, depression, and pain interference when compared to the pain-free group. From the trait dimensions of perfectionism, Self-Oriented Perfectionism and Socially-Prescribed Perfectionism were positively correlated with anxiety, depression, and pain interference. Only 6% of the sample reported being registered with any school support services. CONCLUSION: This pilot study demonstrated a high prevalence of pain, anxiety, and perfectionism traits in university students, while bringing their low engagement with support resources into recognition. Results suggest the need to provide additional comprehensive resources and support for university students, especially those coping with pain issues. Further research should examine the relationship between pain, perfectionism, and mental health in order to implement appropriate interventions for this vulnerable population.