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The authors argue that the study of the complaint of pain falls within the purview of epidemiological study. An analytic survey of 500 randomly selected households on the roster of a group family practice clinic was undertaken. The purpose was to determine the self-reported prevalence rates of any pain complaint and to determine the distribution of pain rates according to selected demographic and socioeconomic variables. Sixteen percent of the individuals sampled from a family practice (H.S.O.) had experienced pain within the 2 weeks preceding the survey. The prevalence rate of those with persistent pain was approximately twice that of those with temporary pain. More women than men reported temporary and persistent pain. The age specific morbidity rate for persistent pain increased with age.The back, lower extremities, and head and face were the most frequently identified sites of pain in both subgroups. Persons with persistent pain used health services, both community physicians and hospital care, more frequently than did those with temporary pain.No significant differences between the two groups were reported for physical, social or emotional function although the persistent pain group characterized their general health status more poorly.