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Children who behave badly suffer more pain as adults

Children with behavioural problems at school are more than twice as likely to suffer chronic pain in adulthood, researchers have revealed.

Experts believe there could be a biological link between poor behaviour and the feelings of pain experienced by some people. More than 18,000 children, born in one week in 1958 were examined for the study, published in the journal Rheumatology.


A variety of information was collected on the children at the age of seven, 11 and 16, and again at 42 and 45.

Parents and teachers separately assessed children's behaviour in areas such as restlessness, worrying, being alone, ability to make friends, obedience, stealing, sucking thumbs and biting nails, lying, bullying and skipping school.

At the age of 42, those taking part in the study filled in a questionnaire about any psychological distress they had suffered in adult life. When they reached 45, they filled in another questionnaire on the amount and kind of pain they had experienced in adulthood.

The study found chronic widespread pain (CWP) was slightly more common in women (13pc) than in men (12pc).

Those youngsters whose teachers highlighted severe and continuous behavioural problems aged seven, 11 and 16 were more than twice as likely to suffer CWP in adulthood compared with children who were well behaved.

Other studies have suggested a link between poor behaviour in childhood and psychological problems in later life, including depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviour, substance abuse and needing treatment for psy- chiatric problems.


CWP is thought to affect 12pc of adults and is most commonly reported in the 50 to 60 age group.

Lead author Dong Pang said: "We know already that severe adverse events in childhood such as hospitalisation after a road traffic accident and separation from mothers are linked to CWP in adulthood. In addition, aspects of childhood behaviour are strongly related to children reporting CWP."