Chronic nonbacterial prostatitis (also known as chronic pelvic pain syndrome) is the most common form of prostatitis, an all-too-common genitourinary condition in men. It’s characterized by episodes of pain and discomfort that come and go unpredictably, trouble urinating, and sexual dysfunction. Although chronic nonbacterial prostatitis isn’t life-threatening, it can certainly degrade a man’s quality of life and lead to depression. Particularly troubling for doctors and patients alike is the lack of clear diagnostic criteria and effective treatments.
To better understand risk factors for chronic nonbacterial prostatitis, Michigan researchers collected data from 703 men enrolled in the Flint Men’s Health Study, a population-based health study of African American men. Participants were interviewed about their health history and lifestyle factors, such as physical activity. They also answered questions about stress and emotional health.
The researchers reported in 2009 that poor emotional health, high levels of stress (as perceived by study participants), and a lack of social support were associated with a history of prostatitis. The findings were consistent with those of a 2002 Harvard study which observed that men who reported severe stress at work or home were 1.2 and 1.5 times more likely to report prostatitis, respectively, than those whose lives were relatively stress-free.
Stress also seems to heighten prostatitis pain, according to researchers in Seattle. They interviewed men about stress and pain intensity by telephone a month after the men were diagnosed with prostatitis and then again three, six, and 12 months later. They concluded that the men with more perceived stress during the six months following diagnosis were in more pain after a year than those who experienced less stress. Despite the limitations of the study, such as the lack of health data on participants prior to diagnosis, the researchers wrote that treatment should include stress management techniques.
SOURCES: Collins MM, Meigs JB, Barry MJ, et al. Prevalence and Correlates of Prostatitis in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study Cohort. Journal of Urology 2002;167:1363–66. PMID:11832733.
Ullrich PM, Turner JA, Ciol M, Berger R. Stress Is Associated with Subsequent Pain and Disability Among Men with Nonbacterial Prostatitis/Pelvic Pain. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 2005;30:112–18. PMID: 16173907.
Wallner LP, Clemens JQ, Sarma AV. Prevalence of and Risk Factors for Prostatitis in African American Men: The Flint Men’s Health Study. Prostate 2009;69:24–32. PMID: 18802926.
Originally published March 2010; last reviewed Feb. 23, 2011