Chronic pain in Australia: a prevalence study


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Abstract

This study reports chronic pain prevalence in a randomly selected sample of the adult Australian population. Data were collected by Computer-Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) using randomly generated telephone numbers and a two-stage stratified sample design. Chronic pain was defined as pain experienced every day for three months in the six months prior to interview. There were 17,543 completed interviews (response rate=70.8%). Chronic pain was reported by 17.1% of males and 20.0% of females. For males, prevalence peaked at 27.0% in the 65–69 year age group and for females, prevalence peaked at 31.0% in the oldest age group (80–84 years). Having chronic pain was significantly associated with older age, female gender, lower levels of completed education, and not having private health insurance; it was also strongly associated with receiving a disability benefit (adjusted OR=3.89, P<0.001) or unemployment benefit (adjusted OR=1.99, P<0.001); being unemployed for health reasons (adjusted OR=6.41, P<0.001); having poor self-rated health (adjusted OR=7.24, P<0.001); and high levels of psychological distress (adjusted OR=3.16, P<0.001). Eleven per cent of males and 13.5% of females in the survey reported some degree of interference with daily activities caused by their pain. Prevalence of interference was highest in the 55–59 year age group in both males (17.2%) and females (19.7%). Younger respondents with chronic pain were proportionately most likely to report interference due to pain, affecting 84.3% of females and 75.9% of males aged 20–24 years with chronic pain. Within the subgroup of respondents reporting chronic pain, the presence of interference with daily activities caused by pain was significantly associated with younger age; female gender; and not having private health insurance. There were strong associations between having interfering chronic pain and receiving disability benefits (adjusted OR=3.31, P<0.001) or being unemployed due to health reasons (adjusted OR=7.94, P<0.001, respectively). The results show that chronic pain impacts upon a large proportion of the adult Australian population, including the working age population, and is strongly associated with markers of social disadvantage.

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