Chronic Pain in Irish Prison Officers: Profile and Predictors of Pain-Related Disability and Depression

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International research has consistently found increased risk for physical health and psychological difficulties among prison officers including elevated risk of assault resulting in acute pain. This study represented an exploratory examination of the experience of chronic pain conditions among Irish prison officers with particular reference to the psychosocial predictors of pain severity, pain interference, and depression.


A questionnaire battery was completed by 152 Irish prison officers. The questionnaires measured pain severity and interference, anxiety, depression, social support, coping strategies, and resilience.


Results showed that 48% of participants reported chronic pain based on the International Association for the Study of Pain definition. Psychological distress was high among respondents reporting chronic pain, with 38% of participants meeting the criteria for “probable depression” while 51% met the criteria for “probable anxiety disorder.” In regression analyses, depression emerged as a significant predictor of both pain severity and pain interference while anxiety and pain interference emerged as significant predictors of depression.


Chronic pain appears to be prevalent in prison officers and is associated with both physical and psychological impairment. Health care staff in correctional facilities should be aware that these health difficulties are prevalent in the prison work environment.

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