Gender Differences in the Prevalence of Pain and Analgesia Use in the Australian Population

Miller AM1, Sanderson K1, Bruno R2, Breslin M1, Neil AL1

1Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

2School of Medicine, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


Introduction: Internationally, numerous studies have identified differences in chronic pain prevalence and analgesic medication use between male and females. Whether significant differences exist in the Australian population is currently unknown.

Aims and Methods: This study aimed to: (1) estimate current prevalence and distribution of chronic pain in the Australian population; (2) assess the distribution of self-reported pain severity; (3) estimate the usage of opioid and non-opioid analgesia; and (4) compare differences between male and female self-reported pain and use of analgesia. This study used cross-sectional, nationally representative data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011- 2012 Australian National Health Survey. The sample was collected via a stratified multistage sampling method. There were a total of n=20,426 participants with an overall response rate of 84.8%. Estimation of final weighted proportions were obtained using STATA v12.

Results: In Australia, 15.4% (2.75 million) of the population aged ≥15 years reported having chronic or reoccurring pain. Males were significantly more likely overall to report no pain (p <0.001), and females were significantly more likely to report moderate to very severe pain (p <0.001). An estimated 12.0% of males and 13.4% of females with chronic or reoccurring pain aged ≥15 years had taken opioid analgesic medications in the previous two weeks. The highest proportions of use were seen in the youngest and oldest female age groups with chronic pain, at 17% and 29% respectively.

Conclusions: Differences between the sexes are apparent in relation to both pain and analgesia use in Australia. As expected, there was a positive trend in chronic pain prevalence with age for Australians of both sexes. In those with chronic pain, there was a trend for greater opioid analgesic medication use for females in each age group, and a higher proportion of females reported moderate to very severe pain.