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Health Survey for England reveals a nation in pain

20 December 2012 | Tags: health and wellbeing, Health Survey for England

Today's Health Survey for England reveals more than 14 million sufferers of chronic pain - pain which has lasted for more than three months.

The study found that pain is more common among some groups than others, pain incurs significant costs and has serious mental health and wellbeing implications.

Certain groups are more likely to experience chronic pain:

• 37% of women, in comparison to 31% of men, reported chronic pain;

• 42% in the lowest income households had chronic pain, compared with 27% in the highest;

• although chronic pain was most prevalent in older people, one in six 16-34 year olds were affected.

The survey demonstrates a burden on health services and employers:

• almost one in four said pain had kept them from usual activities (including work) on at least 14 days in the last three months;

• 37% of sufferers had used specialist pain services, rising to 57% among those with the most severe pain.

We know from earlier research that:

• sufferers are five times more likely to visit their GP, equating to about 5 million GP appointments a year;

• back pain alone is estimated to cost £12.3 billion per year.

Pain has serious psychological impacts.

• Levels of positive wellbeing were lower than those with no pain and fell according to the severity of pain.

• Sufferers were more likely to be anxious or depressed - 69% with the severest pain reported this.

"This study helps us understand the real extent of pain in England today and who it affects. It demonstrates that pain is not just physiological, but also mentally debilitating. We also know that it places a cost burden on health services and employers through days lost from work. These results shed much needed light on an issue which affects so many, adding to a growing body of knowledge on chronic pain."

Rachel Craig, NatCen Social Research

"This authoritative Health Survey for England establishes beyond doubt the high prevalence of pain in the population of England, and its major impact on people's lives including work, and on wider society. Although most frequent in the elderly, the survey also shows that persistent pain is common through all ages from 16 upwards. Taken together with the findings published earlier this week of the National Pain Audit, both local and national commissioners have a duty to ensure that the National Health Service better serves the needs of people living with daily pain, by ensuring access to multi-disciplinary pain services, to restore functioning and ability to work."

Professor Richard Langford, President of The British Pain Society

Notes to Editors

1. The Health Survey for England is an annual survey, monitoring the health of the population. The Joint Health Surveys Unit of NatCen Social Research and the Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL (University College London) are commissioned by the Health and Social Care Information Centre to carry out the survey. Each survey consists of core questions and measurements, plus modules of questions on specific issues that change periodically. The 2011 survey interviewed 8610 adults and 2007 children on a range of topics, including

- obesity,

- alcohol consumption,

- heart disease and stroke,

- hypertension,

- diabetes,

- social care.

Find out more about the Health Survey for England by visiting . The full report published today can be found at .

2. Chronic pain is pain or discomfort that troubles a person, either all of the time or on and off, and has lasted for more than three months.

3. At NatCen Social Research we believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people's lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping services that can make a difference to everyone. And as an independent, not for profit organization we're able to focus our time and energy on meeting our clients' needs and delivering social research that works for society. Find out about the work we do by visiting or follow us on twitter @NatCen

4. Founded in 1826, UCL (University College London) was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine.

We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by our performance in a range of international rankings and tables. According to the Thomson Scientific Citation Index, UCL is the second most highly cited European university and the 15th most highly cited in the world.

UCL has nearly 25,000 students from 150 countries and more than 9,000 employees, of whom one third are from outside the UK. The university is based in Bloomsbury in the heart of London, but also has two international campuses - UCL Australia and UCL Qatar. Our annual income is more than £800 million. | Follow us on Twitter @uclnews | Watch our YouTube channel