After pooling massive amount of data about the health of the UK’s population, researchers found a gradual increase over time in the prevalence of chronic pain. Scientists estimate that 43% of Brits now experience chronic pain or around 28 million people, based on stats gathered in 2013.
There’s no consensus on how many individuals in the UK go about their lives living in chronic pain, despite the extensive literature. Chronic pain is defined as any pain that lasts more than three months due to medical conditions like fibromyalgia, which causes rheumatic conditions, and others.
To get to the bottom of things, researchers at the Imperial College London identified 1737 relevant studies published after 1990. Of these, they selected 19 studies involving 140,000 adults which were deemed relevant enough for a systematic review of chronic pain in the United Kingdom.
The report’s summary:
- the prevalence of chronic pain ranged from 35% to 51% of the UK’s adult population;
- moderate to severely disabling chronic pain ranged from 10% to 14% or 8 million people;
- 43% of the population experience chronic pain, and 14% of UK adults live with chronic widespread pain;
- 8% of UK adults experience chronic neuropathic pain, and 5.5% live with fibromyalgia;
- regarding age groups: 18-25 year olds (14% chronic pain prevalence), 18-39 year olds (30% chronic pain prevalence), aged 75 or older (62% chronic pain prevalence).
“Chronic pain affects between one-third and one-half of the population of the UK, corresponding to just under 28 million adults, based on data from the best available published studies. This figure is likely to increase further in line with an ageing population,” the study published in the journal BMJ concludes.
The great prevalence of chronic pain among Britons can be attributed to an aging populace. In a way, that’s excellent news. It’s estimated that one in three children born in the UK in 2012 will live to be 100, but this also comes at an immense burden.
Women in the UK are having fewer children, while the longevity of the population is growing steadily every year. This presents numerous challenges to the job market, pressures the healthcare system, among other things. It also means more and more people have to live in pain.
The UK, one of the leading developed countries in the world, now has to set an example. Its healthcare system needs to shift from primarily extending livelihoods, to improving the quality of life. This is a challenge that the entire planet will have to face at some point.