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4841.0 - Facts at your Fingertips: Health, 2011  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/07/2012  First Issue
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Contents >> Characteristics of Bodily Pain in Australia


CHARACTERISTICS OF BODILY PAIN IN AUSTRALIA

Pain is a subjective experience that no two people experience in the same way. In 2007, the total cost of chronic pain in Australia was estimated at $34.3 billion, or nearly $11,000 per person with chronic pain [1].


    ABOUT THE INFORMATION...

    This article draws on data from the 1995 and 2007–08 ABS National Health Survey (NHS). Data presented are for people aged 15 years and over, unless otherwise stated.

    Questions on bodily pain were based on the Short Form (SF) 36 Health Survey international questionnaire [2]. Respondents were asked to rate the severity of bodily pain (from any or all causes) they had experienced in the four weeks prior to interview. They were then asked about the extent to which their pain interfered with their usual work. Information on causes of pain or duration of pain was not collected.

IN 2007–08...
  • In Australia, 67% or 11.1 million people aged 15 years and over reported experiencing bodily pain in the previous four weeks. Around one in ten (9%) Australians experienced severe or very severe levels of pain.
  • More Australian adults experienced chronic pain in 2007–08 than in 1995. Rates of overall body pain for people aged 18 years and over increased from 57% to 68%, while severe/very severe pain increased from 7% to 10%.

AGE AND SEX
  • For both men and women, the likelihood of experiencing severe or very severe pain increased with age.
  • People aged 45 years and over were nearly twice as likely to experience severe/very severe pain compared with those aged under 45 years (13% compared with 7%).
  • The highest rates of severe/very severe pain were reported by those aged 75 years and over (14% for men and 19% for women).
  • Overall, men and women experienced similar levels of severe/very severe pain (9% and 10% respectively).

1.1 Pain levels by age, Persons aged 15 years and over, 2007–08

Graph Image for Pain levels by age, persons aged 15 years and over - 2007-08

Source(s): ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08




GENERAL HEALTH STATUS
  • Only 5% of people who rated their health as excellent or very good had severe/very severe pain compared with 27% of people in fair or poor health. Likewise, people with severe or very severe pain were less likely than those without pain to report excellent or very good health (28% compared with 70%) and more likely to report only fair or poor health (42% compared with 7%).

DISABILITY
  • Of those people with a profound/severe disability, 38% experienced severe or very severe pain compared with only 4% of those without a disability or long-term health condition.

CONDITIONS
  • Many people, especially older Australians, have more than one long-term health condition, so it can be difficult to isolate which conditions are associated with the most pain.
  • Overall, nine in ten Australians with arthritis or back problems experienced some level of body pain, as did 86% of people with osteoporosis.
  • However, people with osteoporosis were more likely to experience severe pain, with 29% experiencing severe or very severe pain, compared with 20% of people with arthritis or back problems.
  • Overall, pain levels increased as the number of long-term health conditions increased. Around 4% of the 3.3 million people with one long-term health condition experienced severe or very severe pain compared with 39% of the 580,000 people with ten or more conditions.

1.2 Prevalence of severe/very severe pain(a) by number of health conditions, Persons aged 15 years and over, 2007–08

Graph Image for Prevalence of severe or very severe pain by number of health conditions, persons aged 15 years and over, 2007-08

Footnote(s): (a) Persons who have a current condition which has lasted, or is expected to last, for 6 months or more.

Source(s): ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08



MENTAL HEALTH
  • The NHS uses the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) to measure non-specific psychological distress experienced in the last four weeks.
  • Almost a third (31%) of adults with severe or very severe pain experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress. This was almost twice the rate for adults with moderate pain (17%), three times the rate of those with mild/very mild pain (10%) and around six times the rate for those with no pain (5%).
  • One in five (20%) Australian adults with severe/very severe pain also suffered from depression or other mood disorders. This was more than double the national average (9%) and four times the rate for people without pain (5%).

1.3 Prevalence of high psychological distress(a) by level of pain, Persons aged 18 years and over, 2007–08

Graph Image for Prevalence of high psychological distress by level of pain, persons aged 18 years and over, 2007-08

Footnote(s): (a) Kessler 10 score of 22 or more.

Source(s): ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08


HEALTH RISK FACTORS
  • People aged 15 years and over with severe/very severe pain were more likely than those without pain to be a daily smoker (22% compared with 17%). This difference was evident in every broad age group up to 75 years and older.
  • Other health risk factors, such as obesity or physical inactivity, were more common among older people. For those aged 45 years and over, people with severe or very severe pain were more likely than those without pain to be overweight or obese (80% compared with 67%) and to lead a sedentary lifestyle (53% compared with 37%).

1.4 Prevalence of pain by selected health risk factors, Persons aged 45 years and over, 2007–08

Graph Image for Prevalence of pain by selected health risk factors, people age 45 years and over, 2007-08

Footnote(s): (a) Based on measured height and weight. Excludes those who did have their measurements taken. (b) Based on level of exercise undertaken in the two weeks prior to interview. (c) Alcohol risk in the long term based on 2001 NHMRC guidelines. (d) Difference between no pain and severe/very severe pain is not statistically significant.

Source(s): ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08



ABILITY TO WORK
  • The vast majority (90%) of people with severe/very severe pain reported some level of interference with their normal work (both outside the home and housework) in the previous four weeks.

1.5 Interference with normal work by level of pain, Persons aged 15 years and over, 2007–08

Graph Image for Interference with normal work by level of pain, people aged 15 years and over, 2007-08

Source(s): ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08



REFERENCES

1. The MBF Foundation, 2007, The high price of pain: the economic impact of persistent pain in Australia, viewed 23/5/2012, at http://www.painaustralia.org.au/images/pain_australia/MBF%20Economic%20Impact.pdf <www.painaustralia.org>
2. RAND Health, Medical Outcomes Survey: 36 Item Short Form Survey, viewed 22 June 2012 at http://www.rand.org/health/surveys_tools/mos/mos_core_36item.html


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