Study: Chronic pain in the age group 12 to 44

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Although chronic pain is usually associated with aging, it is relatively common at younger ages. In 2007/2008, about 1 in 10 Canadians aged 12 to 44, or about 1.5 million people, experienced chronic pain. That is, they responded "no" when asked if they were usually free of pain or discomfort.

About 9% of males and 12% of females in this age group experienced chronic pain.

The prevalence increased with age. Among young people aged 12 to 17, 2% of males and 6% of females reported chronic pain. In the age group 35 to 44, the corresponding percentages were 14% and 17%.

For the population aged 12 to 44 chronic pain, was frequently associated with back problems and, for females in particular, with migraine headaches.

About a third of the 2 million people in this age group who had back problems reported chronic pain.

Nearly one-quarter of the 1.2 million women who reported having migraine headaches also reported chronic pain.

Arthritis was relatively uncommon in the age group (fewer than 5%). However, it was highly associated with pain, as about half the people with arthritis reported chronic pain.

Chronic pain was associated with activity limitations at home, school and work and with needing help with everyday tasks. About 63% of people aged 12 to 44 with chronic pain reported experiencing activity limitations "sometimes" or "often," compared with 15% of those who did not have chronic pain.

Chronic pain not only limited, but prevented, at least a few activities for the majority of sufferers (64% of males and 74% of females).

Individuals with chronic pain were more likely to use the services of health care professionals such as doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and psychologists, than people who were usually pain free. They were less likely to respond positively on measures of well-being including self-perceived health, satisfaction with life, and sense of community belonging. Finally, individuals with chronic pain were also more likely to report mood and anxiety disorders.

Note: This release is based on an article in Health Reports that examines the prevalence of chronic pain by socio-demographic characteristics for a sample of 57,660 respondents aged 12 to 44, representing 14.6 million Canadians in that age range. Data came from the 2007/2008 Canadian Community Health Survey. The article examines chronic pain in relation to chronic conditions, impact on functioning, work characteristics, health care use, and general well-being and mental health.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3226.

The article, "Chronic pain at ages 12 to 44," which is part of today's Health Reports, Vol. 21, no. 4 (82-003-X, free) release, is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications. For more information about this article, contact Heather Gilmour (613-951-2114;, Health Analysis Division.

Today's online release of Health Reports includes two other articles.

"Validation of cognitive functioning categories in the Canadian Community Health Survey: Healthy Aging" uses data from the Cognition Module of the survey to validate a categorization of levels of cognitive functioning in the household population aged 45 or older. Data collection for Canadian Community Health Survey-Healthy Aging took place from December 2008 through November 2009. The last national survey to include measures of cognitive functioning among seniors was conducted in 2003. For more information about the article, contact Julie Bernier (613-951-4556;, Health Analysis Division.

"Trends in long-term care staffing by facility ownership in British Columbia, 1996 to 2006" uses data from the Residential Care Facilities Survey to examine changes in staffing levels over the past decade in nursing homes in British Columbia. Total nursing hours per resident-day increased for all facility ownership groups. However, the rate of increase in not-for-profit facilities owned by a health region was significantly greater, compared with for-profit facilities. For more information about the article, contact Margaret J. McGregor (604-827-4129;, University of British Columbia.

The complete version of the latest issue of Health Reports, Vol. 21, no. 4 (82-003-X, free), is now available. A print version (82-003-X, $24/$68) is also available. See How to order products.

For more information about Health Reports, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Janice Felman (613-951-6446;, Health Analysis Division.