Background: Mental health symptoms, like depressive mood (DM) and post-traumatic stress (PTS), and pain interference (PI) with daily functioning often co-occur following traffic injury and their comorbidity can complicate recovery. This study aimed to map the course and overlapping trajectories of mental health symptoms, and associations with PI in a traffic injury population. Methods: In total, 2019 adults sustaining minor-to-moderate traffic injury were recruited within 28 days post-injury and assessed using phone interviews at 1, 6 and 12-months post-injury. Trajectories of DM, PTS and PI were established and relationships between DM, PTS and PI trajectories were explored using dual trajectory modelling. Bio-psychosocial predictors (e.g. pre-injury health, catastrophizing, acute distress, quality of life, social support) of mental health trajectories were investigated. Results: Up to five typical post-trauma trajectories were identified for DM, PTS and PI. Most people were in a resilient mental health trajectory (over 60%, DM or PTS), or in a chronic PI trajectory (almost 60%) 12 months post-injury. While recovery/resilient mental health trajectories were strongly interrelated (73.4% joint probability and > 94% conditional probabilities), DM/PTS comorbidity in chronic trajectories was not straightforward, suggesting a possibly asymmetric relationship. That is, persistent DM was more likely associated with persistent PTS (90.4%), than vice versa (31.9%), with a 22.5% probability that persistent PTS was associated with none or milder depression (i.e. following a recovery/resilient DM trajectory). An asymmetrical relationship was also found between mental health and PI. The majority of those with persistent PI were likely to be in a recovery/resilient DM/PTS trajectory (almost 70%), but those in a non-resilient DM/PTS trajectory showed a high risk of persistent PI. Predictors of non-resilient mental health trajectories included poorer pre-injury health and social support, and shared factors like acute psychological distress and pain catastrophizing. Conclusions: Strong interrelations were confirmed between mental health symptoms and PI following traffic injury. However, persistent DM was more strongly linked to persistent PTS, than vice versa. Persistent PI was only linked with persistent DM/PTS in vulnerable subgroups. Early psychiatric/psychological interventions should target elevated psychological distress and negative appraisals in vulnerable individuals, to reduce long-term mental health morbidity/comorbidity and PI. Trial registration: ACTRN12613000889752.
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- Pain catastrophizing
- Pain interference
- Post-traumatic stress