Objective: Chronic pain is prevalent in many Western countries. Its prevalence in a non-Caucasian population is not known. The authors performed this study to measure the prevalence of chronic pain in the Hong Kong Chinese adult population, as well as the pattern of pain and the demographic characteristics, the impact on social and work function, and the help-seeking behavior of those with pain.
Design: Cross-sectional survey using telephone interview with a structured questionnaire. Chronic pain was defined as pain persisting for more than 3 months.
Subjects: A random sample of over 1,000 persons out of the entire Chinese adult population of Hong Kong.
Results: One thousand fifty-one adults were interviewed. One hundred thirteen (10.8% [95% C.I.: 8.9%-12.7%]) had chronic pain. The median number of pains was two. Of those with chronic pain, 38.3% reported their work was affected, and 19.8% had taken a median of 5 days' sick leave in the past year; 70.8% said the pain had interfered with their daily life, 88.5% had tried self-treatment, and 74.3% had sought medical advice. Only 35.7% considered the treatment definitely helpful. Two risk factors were identified: the female gender (O.R. 1.5, 95% C.I. 1.0-2.3) and age greater than 60 (O.R. 2.2, 95% C.I. 1.3-3.6).
Conclusions: The study showed that the prevalence of chronic pain in Hong Kong adults was approximately 10.8%. Work and daily life are significantly affected and there is considerable demand on the health care system. Despite the ethnic difference, the prevalence, pattern, and demographic characteristics of chronic pain in Hong Kong are very similar to those seen in Western countries.