Background: The prevalence of chronic pain in the general population ranges from 10% to over 40%, depending on the definition and the population studied. No large study has been conducted in Israel.
Objectives: To evaluate the prevalence of patients with chronic pain, and characterize them in a large community random sample.
Methods: We conducted a survey of Clalit Health Services members, interviewing them by phone. A random sample of 4063 Clalit members, 25 years or older and Hebrew speakers, were screened for chronic pain, defined as: any pain or discomfort that in the last 6 months has persisted continuously or intermittently for more than 3 months.
Results: Eight percent (n=325) refused to participate. Of the 3738 included in the study, 1722 (46%) reported chronic pain in at least one site. Most of the patients were over 50 years old (62%) (mean age 56 ± 16, range 27–97 years). Women suffered significantly more than men, as did those who were older, less educated and born in Israel and Eastern Europe. Prevalent painful sites were the back (32%), limbs (17%) and head (13%). More than a third reported severe pain and impaired life activities. Only 4.8% of the patients suffering from chronic pain were referred to pain specialists and 11% used complementary medicine. A logistic regression model showed that women and patients with lower education level were the only significant variables predicting higher life impact index and higher pain severity.
Conclusions: We found a high prevalence of chronic pain in the study population. Chronic pain causes severe disturbance to quality of life. A low rate of referral to pain specialists and complementary medicine was observed.