High Levels of Self-Reported Depressive Symptoms Among Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Students Are Associated With Musculoskeletal Pain: A Cross-Sectional Study

Tomer Yona, Asaf Weisman*, Uri Gottlieb, Youssef Masharawi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Depressive symptoms and musculoskeletal (MSK) pain are 2 of the most common health conditions. Their relationship, however, remains unclear. As depressive symptoms in physical therapists have not been well assessed, the purpose of this work was to assess self-reported depressive symptoms and MSK pain prevalence - and their possible association - in physical therapists and physical therapist students. Methods: An online cross-sectional survey was used to gather data from 707 physical therapists and 116 physical therapist students from Israel. The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 was used to assess depressive symptoms, and the Extended Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire was used to evaluate the prevalence and characteristics of MSK pain. Results: Overall, 108 participants (13.1%) scored in the moderate to severe depressive symptoms category (Patient Health Questionnaire-9 score >10), and 261 participants (31.7%) scored in the mild depressive symptoms category. In total, 84 physical therapists (11.9%) and 24 physical therapist students (20.7%) reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms during the last 2 weeks. Neck and back pain had the highest point prevalence (26.7%-35.3%) and lifetime prevalence (75.9%-78.5%), respectively. Mild depressive symptoms were associated with current pain (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.58) and smoking (adjusted OR = 1.79-1.84). Current pain was also associated with severe depressive symptoms (adjusted OR = 2.76-3.07). Physical therapists with higher salaries were less likely to report severe depressive symptoms (adjusted OR = 0.11-0.36). Conclusion: The prevalence estimates generated from this study sample imply that 11.9% of physical therapists and 20.7% of physical therapist students in Israel experienced moderate to severe depressive symptoms. Neck and back pain had the highest point and lifetime prevalence. Impact: The prevalence of self-reported depressive symptoms in this sample places physical therapists and physical therapist students alongside physicians, nurses, and medical profession students who have been previously reported to have elevated depressive symptoms. Future studies should further explore the nature of the association between pain and depressive symptoms in these populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberpzab278
JournalPhysical Therapy
Volume102
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Depression
  • Musculoskeletal Pain
  • Occupational Health
  • PHQ-9
  • Patient Health Questionnaire

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