Background: People with musculoskeletal pain seek more healthcare than the general population, however little is known about the long-term effect on healthcare use. The aim of this study was to examine the consequences of number of musculoskeletal pain sites on long-term care-seeking and healthcare-related costs and explore how health anxiety influences this relationship. Methods: We conducted a Danish population-based longitudinal cohort study of 4883 participants combining self-reported survey data from 2008 with ten-year follow-up data from national health registers. Using a causal inference framework, we examined associations between number of pain sites (range 0–7)/level of health anxiety (high/low level) and face-to-face healthcare contacts/healthcare-related costs. Data were analyzed using negative binomial regression with generalized estimating equations. Regression models were adjusted for sex, age, duration of pain, level of education, comorbidity, personality traits, risk of depression, marital status, physical job exposure, and previous healthcare utilization. Results: For each additional pain site general healthcare contacts (Incidence Rate Ratio (IRR): 1.04 (95% CI: 1.03–1.05)), healthcare-related costs (IRR: 1.06 (95% CI: 1.03–1.08) and musculoskeletal healthcare contacts (IRR: 1.11 (95% CI:1.09–1.14) increased. Those with high levels of health anxiety at baseline had a slightly higher number of general healthcare contacts (IRR 1.06 (1.01–1.11), independent of number of pain sites. However, level of anxiety did not influence the effect of number of pain sites on any healthcare use or cost outcomes. Conclusions: We found evidence for a causal association between increasing number of pain sites and greater healthcare use and cost, and high levels of health anxiety did not increase the strength of this association. This suggests that number of pain sites could be a potential target for biopsychosocial interventions in order to reduce the need for future care-seeking.
Bibliografisk noteFunding Information:
This study is a part of a PhD project financially supported by: VIA University College, Health Research Foundation of Central Denmark Region, the Danish Rheumatism Association, NIDO Denmark and the Health Foundation. None of the authors received any specific grants for this publication and none of the founders had any influence on this publication.