Pain complaints and psychological distress among soldiers in specialty military medical clinics

D. Feldman, J. Rabinowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: This paper explores: (1) the relationship of pain complaints and psychological distress among orthopedic, dermatology, ophthalmology, and neurology outpatients, (2) the ability of patients with pain complaints and their physicians to detect patients' psychological distress, and (3) the connection between type of pain, prognosis as rated by physician, and patient's use of military primary health care and mental health treatment. Method: Five hundred fifty-six soldiers in compulsory service in the Israel Defence Forces, ages 18 to 21, responded to the PERI-D (Psychiatric Epidemiological Research Interview Demoralization Scale), a measure of psychological distress, and questions about presenting medical complaint and use of mental health and primary health services. Military specialist physicians, who were blind to patients' responses, were asked the extent to which they thought that the cause of the patients' complaints were physical or psychological and to prognosticate. Results: Almost 47% of soldiers attended clinics due to pain. In descending order were limb pain (42.5%), headache (29.1%), lower-back pain (24.5%), and right arm pain (3.8%). Right arm complainers were the most distressed and the heaviest users of primary health care and got the lowest prognosis, yet the physicians did not detect any psychological distress in this group. The least distressed and lowest users of medical services were patients with limb pain. There was a positive linear relationship between psychological distress and use of primary health care. There was a negative linear relationship between distress and prognosis. The patients' ability to detect psychological distress was better than that of the physicians. Physicians tended to find more cases of psychological distress than did the PERI-D in lower-back pain and limb pain patients. Psychologically distressed headache and limb pain patients reported using significantly more primary health care than non-distressed patients with similar pain complaints. Conclusions: Special attention to psychological distress among pain complainers in military secondary health care clinics is needed. Such attention may reduce the use of primary health care and may have implications for improving prognoses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-216
Number of pages4
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1995


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