The prevalence, correlates and treatment of pain in the European Union

Curr Med Res Opin. 2011 Feb;27(2):463-80. doi: 10.1185/03007995.2010.542136. Epub 2011 Jan 11.


Objectives: To report on the results of a recent large-scale, internet-based survey of the population, prevalence and attributes of pain experience in the United Kingdom (UK), France, Spain, Germany and Italy.

Methods: The results reported here are taken from the internet-based, 2008 National Health and Wellness Survey (NHWS). In addition to detailing the prevalence of pain, the survey reports on the correlates of pain - socio-demographic characteristics of respondents, health status and health related quality of life, pain associated comorbidities, satisfaction with care, employment and productivity and utilization of health care resources. In addition, the survey also captures treatment patterns, satisfaction with medications (both prescription and over the counter [OTC]) and adherence experience.

Results: An estimated 49.7 million persons in these five countries reported pain by both its severity and frequency in the previous month. Of these, 11.2 million reported severe pain, 29.4 million reported moderate pain and 9.0 million reported mild pain. The population prevalence of daily pain is 8.85% with 3.47% reporting severe daily pain and 4.70% moderate daily pain. The cumulative burden of pain is demonstrated in terms of HRQoL, employment status and workforce activities as well as in healthcare resource utilization. The most striking impacts are seen in the impact of severe and frequent pain on HRQoL. Of the measures employed, the impact on the physical component score (PCS) of the SF-12 and the SF-6D absolute utility scores are substantial. The presence of severe and daily pain not only reduces the PCS score against that reported for the no pain population by over 20 points (or approximately 40%) but the impact on the absolute utility score is to reduce it from a no pain average of 0.74 to a score of 0.54. As far as productivity losses to the community are concerned the impact of severe pain is equally dramatic.

Conclusions: The reported prevalence of pain in these five countries represents a substantial burden to individuals, employers, healthcare systems and society in general. The fact that one in five of the adult population has experienced pain presents a major policy challenge. This would involve not only reducing the prevalence of pain - where chronic pain may be considered a disease in its own right - but to co-ordinate pain management programs across a range of disease states and socio-economic groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comorbidity
  • Cost of Illness
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • European Union / economics
  • European Union / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Resources / economics
  • Health Resources / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / complications*
  • Pain / economics
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult