The epidemiology of chronic pain in the community

A M Elliott, B H Smith, K I Penny, W C Smith, W A Chambers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

867 Citations (Scopus)

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
JournalThe Lancet
Volume354
Issue number9186
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 1999

Keywords

  • general-population
  • persistent pain
  • prevalence
  • health
  • care

Cite this

Elliott, A. M., Smith, B. H., Penny, K. I., Smith, W. C., & Chambers, W. A. (1999). The epidemiology of chronic pain in the community. The Lancet, 354(9186), 1248-1252. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(99)03057-3