Pain is a major burden for society and a great challenge for public health. The aim of this study was to evaluate the association of socio-economic status (SES) with pain, and assess if there were socio-economic differences in the impairment due to pain, even when the same level of pain was reported. Data were sourced from the Austrian Health Interview Survey 2006-2007, a population based nation-wide survey with 15,474 respondents. SES, based on education, income and profession was inversely and gradually associated with the prevalence of severe pain, with the number of indicated painful body sites, the intensity of pain, and with the subjective level of feeling disabled through pain. In a stepwise logistic regression model, adjusted for age, gender, diseases, number of painful body sites and intensity of pain, people with lower SES gradually reported greater disability through pain. Even at the same intensity of pain and the same number of painful body sites, people in the lowest as compared to the highest socio-economic class were twice to three times more likely to feel disabled through pain. Adjusted odds ratios for the lowest group of SES was 2.80 (95% CI, 1.93-4.06) in terms of education, 1.83 (95% CI, 1.40-2.41) in terms of income and 2.05 (95% CI, 1.32-3.19) in terms of profession. This unexplained socio-economic gradient contributes to the confirmation of the social component in a bio-psycho-social model of pain.
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