The epidemiology of chronic pain in the community

Alison M. Elliott, Blair H. Smith, Kay I. Penny, W. Cairns Smith, W. Alastair Chambers

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    Abstract

    Background Chronic pain is recognised as an important problem in the community but our understanding of the epidemiology of chronic pain remains limited. We undertook a study designed to quantify and describe the prevalence and distribution of chronic pain in the community.

    Methods A random sample of 5036 patients, aged 25 and over, was drawn from 29 general practices in the Grampian region of the UK and surveyed by a postal self-completion questionnaire. The questionnaire included case-screening questions, a question on the cause of the pain, the chronic pain grade questionnaire, the level of expressed needs questionnaire, and sociodemographic questions.

    Findings 3605 questionnaires were returned completed. 1817 (50.4%) of patients self reported chronic pain, equivalent to 46.5% of the general population. 576 reported back pain and 570 reported arthritis; these were the most common complaints and accounted for a third of all complaints. Backward stepwise logistic-regression modelling identified age, sex, housing tenure, and employment status as significant predictors of the presence of chronic pain in the community. 703 (48.7%) individuals with chronic pain had the least severe grade of pain, and 228 (15.8%) the most severe grade. Of those who reported chronic pain, 312 (17.2%) reported no expressed need, and 509 (28.0%) reported the highest expressed need.

    Interpretation Chronic pain is a major problem in the community and certain groups within the population are more likely to have chronic pain. A detailed understanding of the epidemiology of chronic pain is essential for efficient management of chronic pain in primary care.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1248-1252
    Number of pages5
    JournalLancet
    Volume354
    Issue number9186
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 1999

    Keywords

    • Chronic pain
    • Questionnaire
    • Postal survey

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