Once again, the data demonstrates the prevalence of chronic pain in our communities, finding that one in five Australians aged 45 and over are living with persistent, ongoing pain.
Importantly, the report also highlights the significant burden of disease, finding that compared with people without chronic pain, those with chronic pain were 2.6 times as likely to have arthritis, 2.5 times as likely to have mental health problems, 2.5 times as likely to have osteoporosis and 2.4 times as likely to have other long-term health conditions or a long-term injury.
The report found that over the past decade GPs are seeing more people for chronic pain— with patient encounters rising by a staggering 67% over 10 years. People with chronic pain continue to be primarily sent down the pharmacological intervention path, with more than half (57%) dispensed analgesics, compared with 1 in 5 (21%) people without chronic pain. People with chronic pain are almost 3 times as likely to be dispensed opioids and other analgesics and migraine medication as those without pain.
The heavy toll chronic pain takes on our health systems was also revealed, with nearly 105,000 hospitalisations involving chronic pain in 2017-18 alone. Hospitalisations involving chronic pain involved more procedures: 22% had 5 or more procedures, compared with 8.9% for other hospitalisations. Unfortunately, the rate of hospitalisations is higher for people in lower socioeconomic areas, underlining the importance of the social determinants of health in this cohort.