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The silent epidemic - chronic pain in the UK

21st Jun 2016

The British Pain Society has instigated research that has revealed truly astonishing results. Chronic pain affects more than two fifths of the UK population, meaning that around 28 million adults are living with pain that has lasted for three months or longer.

The authors discovered that 43% of the population experience chronic pain, with up to 14.3% living with chronic pain that is either moderately or severely disabling.

This epidemiology study was a direct output from the First English Pain Summit held in 2011 – Putting pain on the agenda.

Published in The British Medical Journal online the research involved a review of 19 studies conducted since 1990 involving a total of nearly 140,000 people in the UK. The authors found that women were more likely to experience chronic pain than men, while prevalence was generally found to increase with age. In one study, prevalence among those over the age of 75 was as high as 62%.

Looking at seven studies that explored chronic pain across the general population, the researchers found that between 35 and 51% of the UK population are affected. When the data from the studies were combined and analysed by the researchers, they estimated that 43% of the population experience chronic pain.

One of the authors Alan Fayaz noted “Chronic pain is costly at an individual and societal level; in the USA direct and indirect healthcare costs attributable to chronic pain outstrip those of cancer and cardiovascular diseases combined, and yet it doesn't have as high a profile. There is a reluctance to talk about pain because it isn't as visible or tangible as other conditions, even though it may have a devastating impact on quality of life. I think the government need to work with organisations like the British Pain Society to challenge these conceptions, much in the way they have done with mental health”

Help support the British Pain Society in achieving its mission to enable best pain management for all.

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