Comorbidity of obesity and pain in a general population: results from the Southern Pain Prevalence Study

J Pain. 2007 May;8(5):430-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2006.12.003. Epub 2007 Mar 6.


This cross-sectional study examines the relation between obesity and self-reported pain (moderate or severe pain occurring at least monthly) in a general population sample of adults in the southeastern United States (N = 3637). Results of the study suggest that obese adults (body mass index [BMI] >30) are more likely to experience pain than their normal-weight and underweight counterparts. Respondents classified as class I obese (BMI of 30 to 34.9) were 1.762 times as likely as the underweight and normal weight participants to report severe pain. Class II obese respondents (BMI of 35 to 39.9) were 1.888 times as likely to experience severe pain. Those respondents categorized as class III obese were most likely to report severe pain--2.297 times as likely as the underweight and normal-weight respondents. Analyses demonstrated a similar trend for respondents reporting moderate to severe pain. Adults who are obese are also more likely to report experiencing pain in multiple locations. This study complements clinical research that links pain and obesity and extends it into a general population. Because this is a cross-sectional study, further research is needed to discern causal explanations for the relation between self-reported pain and obesity.

Perspective: This article provides a population-level depiction of the positive relation between obesity and self-reported pain, which complements clinical research on the topic. It may prompt future research to shape interventions and treatment for both pain and obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / embryology*
  • Pain / classification
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Southeastern United States / epidemiology