Longitudinal social support and quality of life among participants of psychosocial chronic pain management groups
Objective: The primary goal of the current study was to characterize perceived social support (PSS) and isolation longitudinally among people with chronic pain (CP) who were and were not receiving group psychosocial interventions for CP. The second goal of the study was to describe how PSS and isolation variables are associated with quality-of-life (QOL) variables over time for those same participants. Background: Previous research has demonstrated that positive social support can predict better outcomes for people with CP and negative social support can predict poorer outcomes. Furthermore, CP is associated with decreased social support and greater isolation. Despite the knowledge that PSS can be an important coping resource for people with CP, research on the longitudinal patterns of PSS and isolation and their relationships to QOL variables over time is lacking, especially among people with CP. Method: Social health and QOL data from 290 participants from the Learning About My Pain study (Eyer & Thorn, 2015) were used to examine longitudinal PSS and isolation with piecewise linear growth models using multilevel modeling. Participants were randomly assigned to participate in group cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), group pain psychoeducation (EDU), or medical treatment-as-usual (TAU) for 10 weeks followed by a 6-month post-treatment follow-up period. Participants were assessed pre-, mid-, and post-treatment, as well as at follow-up. Results: PSS was relatively stable over the treatment and follow-up periods except for small decreases in emotional and informational support among TAU and social isolation among EDU during the follow-up period. Companionship was associated with decreasing pain interference, disability, and depression, and emotional support was associated with decreasing pain interference and depression, whereas instrumental support and isolation were associated with worsening QOL. The Buffering Hypothesis of PSS was not supported in the current sample. Conclusions: A potential benefit of participating in psychosocial group treatments for CP appears to be the lack of deterioration of emotional and informational support for CBT and EDU and decreasing isolation for EDU participants. Social health was predictive of QOL. Future research and treatment of CP should account for PSS and isolation and the ways in which they interact with pain and QOL.