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Original Research

Cross-Sectional Associations Among Symptoms of Pain, Irritability, and Depression and How These Symptoms Relate to Social Functioning and Quality of Life: Findings From the EMBARC and STRIDE Studies and the VitalSign6 Project

Manish K. Jha, MBBSa,b; Alan Schatzberg, MDc; Abu Minhajuddin, PhDb,d; Cherise Chin Fatt, PhDb; Taryn L. Mayes, MSb; and Madhukar H. Trivedi, MDb

Published: April 13, 2021


Objective: The aim of this report was to evaluate the psychometric properties of the Pain Frequency, Intensity, and Burden Scale (P-FIBS), a brief measure of pain, as well as the association of pain with irritability and depression and how these symptoms relate to functional impairments.

Methods: Participants of 2 randomized controlled trials (Establishing Moderators and Biosignatures of Antidepressant Response in Clinical Care [EMBARC; n = 251 with DSM-IV diagnosis of major depressive disorder; study duration: August 2011–December 2015] and STimulant Reduction Intervention Using Dosed Exercise [STRIDE; n = 302 with DSM-IV diagnosis of stimulant abuse or dependence; study-duration: July 2010–February 2013]) and treatment-seeking patients in primary care clinics from an ongoing quality-improvement project (VitalSign6; n = 4,370; project duration: August 2014–July 2019) were included. Psychometric properties of the P-FIBS were evaluated with confirmatory factor and item response theory analyses in EMBARC and VitalSign6. The approach of Baron and Kenny was used to assess whether irritability accounted for the effect of pain on depression.

Results: Cronbach α (0.84–0.89) and model fits for single-factor structure of P-FIBS were acceptable. Pain was positively correlated with irritability (r = 0.22–0.29) and depression (r = 0.10–0.33). Irritability accounted for 40.7%–65.5% of the effect of pain on depression. Higher irritability and depression were associated with poorer social functioning, quality of life, and productivity in work- and non–work-related activities. Pain was associated with non–work-related activity impairments even after controlling for irritability and depression.

Conclusions: The P-FIBS is a brief and reliable measure of pain. Irritability is associated with pain and accounts for a large proportion of the effect of pain on depression. Symptoms of pain, irritability, and depression are associated with functional impairments.

Trial registration: identifiers: NCT01407094 (EMBARC), NCT01141608 (STRIDE).

Volume: 82

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