Researchers prospectively followed some 330 children with functional abdominal pain and 150 age-matched controls without pain into adolescence and young adulthood (mean age at follow-up, 20 years). They found that children who’d had abdominal pain at baseline were significantly more likely than controls to meet criteria for lifetime anxiety disorders (51% vs. 20%) and current anxiety disorders (30% vs. 12%) at follow-up. In most cases, anxiety preceded the onset of abdominal pain. In some cases, anxiety persisted after pain had resolved.
The pain group was also more likely than the control group to meet criteria for lifetime depression at follow-up (40% vs. 16%); depression usually began after abdominal pain.
“These data underscore the importance of a biopsychosocial approach to [functional abdominal pain] that includes screening for anxiety and depression,” the researchers conclude.