Painful Facts

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Prevalence

  • 3.37 million Australians were living with chronic pain in 2020. 53.8% are women (1.81 million) and 46.2% are men (1.56 million).
  • 68.3% (2.30 million) are of working age.
  • For the majority (56%) of Australians living with chronic pain, their pain restricts what activities they can undertake.
  • 1.03 million older Australians (65 years and over) were living with chronic pain, with rates almost twice as high as the working age population.
  • The prevalence of chronic pain was estimated to increase from 3.37 million Australians in 2020 to 5.23 million people by 2050.

Type of Care

  • Referrals to pain specialists occur in less than 15% of GP consultations where pain is managed, medications are used in close to 70% of GP consultations.
  • Best Practice does not support long term use of medication for chronic pain management
  • One in 100 will receive multidisciplinary care.

Financial Costs

The total financial cost of chronic pain in Australia in 2020 was estimated to be $144.10 billion, comprising:

  • $12.64 billion in health system costs;
  • $49.74 billion in productivity losses;
  • $68.63 billion in reduction of quality of life costs and
  • $13.09 billion in other financial costs, such as informal care, aids and modifications and deadweight losses.

Health system costs make up 16.7% of financial costs, accounting for $12.2 billion. Of this expenditure, $2.7 billion was paid by Australians in out-of-pocket costs to manage their chronic pain. Governments paid for 66.7% of total health expenditure, while individuals and other funding sources respectively contributed 22.1% and 11.2% to the total. Hospitalisations accounted for $3.7 billion of total health expenditure, followed by out-of-hospital expenses ($1.3 billion), and pharmaceuticals ($1.1 billion).

In 2020 Australian dollars, cost of pain was estimated to be $22,790 per person.
Australians living with chronic pain paid $2.7 billion, or 22.1% (out-of-pocket) to manage their chronic pain, while Australian governments paid $7.9 billion, or 66.7%.

Geography

  • Australians in rural and remote areas tend to experience higher rates of medication prescription and higher rates of pain management, likely due to higher prevalence rates and decreased access to appropriate pain management interventions.
  • GPs in remote Medicare locals were less likely to refer Australians living with chronic pain to another health professional.
  • 65.6% of Australians with chronic pain live in urban areas compared to 34.4% in regional areas.

Mental Health

  • 44.6% of patients living with chronic pain also experience depression or anxiety (Hooley et al, 2014).
  • Suicide is reported to be two to three times higher in those suffering chronic pain compared to the general population.
  • Major depression in patients with chronic pain is associated with reduced functioning, poorer treatment response and increased health care costs (Karapetyan et al, 2017).
  • High rates of generalised anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance misuse are also reported in people with chronic pain (Finan et al, 2013).
  • In 2017-18, 823 Australians are believed to have lost their lives as a result of prescription opioid misuse.
  • If you need to speak to someone now, please call Lifeline 13 11 14.