Pain in children and adolescents: prevalence, impact on daily life, and parents' perception, a school survey

Scand J Caring Sci. 2011 Mar;25(1):27-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2010.00785.x.


Background: Pain problems in children and adolescents have increased during the last 20 years and have been identified as an important public health problem.

Aims: The specific aims of the study were to study the prevalence of pain, its association with age, gender, and socio-demographics, its frequency, duration, and type. A further aim is to describe the impact of pain on daily living, perceived triggers of pain, and correspondence between parents' and children's perceptions of pain.

Design: A cross-sectional study, with a descriptive, exploratory design.

Settings and participants: A cluster sample of children and adolescents (age 8-18 years N=1238) and parents (n=828), from 20 randomly selected schools in a region of Norway.

Methods: Data were collected using a structured self-report questionnaire, the Lübeck Pain-Screening Questionnaire (LPQ). The children filled in the questionnaires at school, while the parents completed the questionnaires at home.

Results: Sixty per cent of the children and adolescents reported pain within the previous 3 months. Pain increased with age, where girls aged 16-18 years reported the most pain. Total prevalence of chronic pain was 21%. Children reported impact on social life; inability to pursue hobbies, disturbed sleep, absence from school, and inability to meet friends because of pain. The girls reported significantly more frequently disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, and use of medication, compared to the boys. There was little agreement between parents and children regarding pain.

Conclusions: Pain is a common problem and influences the daily lives of children and adolescents. Many parents are unaware of the pain experienced by their children. There is a need for preventive programmes that also involve parents, school nurses, and teachers.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Prevalence