Chronic pain in Australia: a prevalence study

Pain. 2001 Jan;89(2-3):127-34. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3959(00)00355-9.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Data Collection
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Telephone
  • Unemployment