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

869 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)1248-52
Number of pages5
JournalThe Lancet
Volume354
Issue number9186
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 1999
Externally publishedYes

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    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), 1248-52. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(99)03057-3