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Pain Research and Management
Volume 17 (2012), Issue 5, Pages 335-340
Original Article

Perceived Injustice Moderates the Relationship between Pain and Depressive Symptoms among Individuals with Persistent Musculoskeletal Pain

Whitney Scott and Michael Sullivan

Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Copyright © 2012 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: Numerous investigations report that depressive symptoms frequently coexist with persistent pain. However, evidence suggests that symptoms of depression are not an inevitable consequence of pain. Diathesis-stress formulations suggest that psychological factors interact with the stress of pain to heighten the risk of depressive symptoms. Perceptions of injustice have recently emerged as a factor that may interact with the stress of pain to increase depressive symptoms.

OBJECTIVES: The purpose of the present study was to examine whether perceived injustice moderates the relationship between pain and depressive symptoms.

METHODS: A total of 107 individuals with persistent musculoskeletal pain completed self-report measures of pain severity, depressive symptoms, perceived injustice and catastrophizing.

RESULTS: A hierarchical regression analysis revealed that the interaction between pain severity and perceived injustice uniquely contributed an additional 6% of the variance to the prediction of depressive symptoms, beyond the main effects of these variables. Post hoc probing indicated that pain was significantly related to depressive symptoms at high, but not low levels of perceived injustice. This finding remained statistically significant even when controlling for pain catastrophizing.

CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that perceived injustice augments the relationship between pain severity and depressive symptoms. The inclusion of techniques specifically targeting perceptions of injustice may enhance the effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing symptoms of depression for individuals presenting with strong perceptions of injustice.