The Epidemiology of Chronic Pain in Canada Between 1994 and 2008: Results From the National Population Health Survey and the Canadian Community Health Survey
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Background: Chronic pain is prevalent worldwide and is estimated to range from 2% to 55% in the general population. There is a limited understanding of the prevalence and incidence of chronic pain in Canada. Furthermore, our understanding of the sociodemographic predictors of chronic pain is limited; thus we are poorly positioned to identify potential populations at risk. Objectives: The primary objectives for this study included: 1) to determine the prevalence and incidence of chronic pain and pain-related interference in Canada over time and, 2) to determine the influence of sociodemographic predictors on the development of chronic pain by sex in the Canadian adult population over 12 years. Methods: Using data from the cross-sectional components of the National Population Health Survey (NPHS) (1994/95, 1996/97, 1998/99) and the Canadian Community Health Survey (2000/01, 2003, 2005, 2007/08), we examined the prevalence and interference of chronic pain. The longitudinal component of the NPHS was used to determine the incidence and sociodemographic predictors of chronic pain. Chronic pain was defined as the presence of “usual pain”. Results: The prevalence in the cross-sectional samples ranged from 15.1% to 18.9%. In the longitudinal sample, the incidence ranged from 5.4% to 7.8% and the prevalence ranged from 15.3% to 19.5%. Women, compared to men, had a higher prevalence, but not incidence of chronic pain each year. Of those individuals reporting chronic pain, the majority reported at least a few activities prevented. Women who were older, with lower education, and widowed, separated, or divorced were more likely to develop chronic pain. There were no sociodemographic risk factors for chronic pain in men. Conclusion/Implications: This population-based study supports previous research findings indicating that chronic pain affects daily activities of many Canadians. Furthermore, this is the first population-based prospective study examining the incidence and sociodemographic predictors of chronic pain in Canadians. Further study with more detailed definitions of pain and pain-related interference is warranted. Moreover, our findings suggest that older women are more likely to develop chronic pain and that men and women may have different risk factors for chronic pain, suggesting the need for gender-based preventative interventions.