Objective: To determine the prevalence of chronic pelvic pain in U.S. women aged 18-50 years, and to examine its association with health-related quality of life, work productivity, and health care utilization.
Methods: In April and May 1994, the Gallup Organization telephoned 17,927 U.S. households to identify women aged 18-50 years who experienced chronic pelvic pain, ie, of at least 6 months' duration. Those who reported chronic pelvic pain were surveyed on severity, frequency, and diagnosis; quality of life; work loss and productivity; and health care utilization.
Results: Among 5263 eligible women who agreed to participate, 773 (14.7%) reported chronic pelvic pain within the past 3 months. Those who reported chronic pelvic pain had significantly lower mean scores for general health than those who did not (70.5 versus 78.8,P<.05), and 61% of those with chronic pelvic pain reported that the etiology was unknown. Women diagnosed with endometriosis reported the most health distress, pain during or after intercourse, and interference with activities because of pain. Estimated direct medical costs for outpatient visits for chronic pelvic pain for the U.S population of women aged 18-50 years are $881.5 million per year. Among 548 employed respondents, 15% reported time lost from paid work and 45% reported reduced work productivity.
Conclusion: Frequently, the cause of chronic pain is undiagnosed, although it affects approximately one in seven U.S. women. Increased awareness of its cost and impact on quality of life should promote increased medical attention to this problem.