A series of health surveys are conducted every sixth to seventh year in Denmark. In the most recent survey of 2000, a national random sample (>16 years) was drawn from the Danish Central Personal Register. Out of the original sample 12,333 (74%) were interviewed and of these 10,066 returned a completed questionnaire (SF-36). The present study includes only those who both took part in the interview and the postal questionnaire. Cancer patients were excluded. Persons suffering from chronic pain (PG) were identified through the question 'Do you have chronic/long lasting pain lasting 6 months or more'? An overall chronic pain prevalence of 19% was found -16% for men and 21% for women. Prevalence of chronic pain increased with increasing age. Persons >/=67 years had 3.9 higher odds of suffering from chronic pain than persons in the age group 16-24 years. Compared with married persons, divorced or separated persons had 1.5 higher odds of chronic pain. Odds for chronic pain were 1.9 higher among those with an education of less than 10 years compared with individuals with an education of 13 years or more. During a 14-day period reporters of chronic pain had an average of 0.8 days (range 0-10) lost due to illness compared with an average of 0.4 days (range 0-10) for the control group (CG) (Odds Ratio (OR)) 2.0). Persons with a job which required high physical strain were more likely to report chronic pain compared with those with a sedentary job (OR 2.2). The odds of quitting one's job because of ill health were seven times higher among people belonging to the PG. A strong association between chronic pain and poor self-rated health was also demonstrated. The PG had twice as many contacts with various health professionals compared with the CG, and the health care system was, on average, utilised 25% more (overall contacts) by the PG than by the general population. Among the persons in the PG, 33% were not satisfied with the examinations carried out in connection with their pain condition and 40% were not satisfied with the treatment offered. Nearly 130,000 adults, corresponding to 3% of the Danish population, use opioids on a regular basis. Opioids are used by 12% of the PG.