Facts about Chronic Pain

What is chronic pain?

There is no one size fits all solution for chronic pain, but being an active participant in your care and reaching out for support can help you find the solutions that work best for you.

Resource: Living with Chronic Pain – Mini Bulletin


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People experiencing chronic pain face a complex set of challenges and barriers that have been amplified by the pandemic, opioid regulation reforms, and prescription monitoring programs.1

What is chronic pain?

For many people, pain is a temporary feeling of discomfort connected to injury, illness, or surgery.

There are many different types of pain:

Acute pain lasts for a short time after a surgery, injury, or other condition. This is a signal to your body to seek help. It usually settles as your body heals.

Sub-acute pain is close to being chronic pain. Often known as the transition phase.

Recurrent pain occurs on a cycle, such as a migraine.

Cancer-related pain.

Chronic or persistent pain lasts beyond the expected healing time (usually 3-6 months) following a trauma, surgery, or other condition (excluding cancer).2

Chronic pain is complex, and each person experiences it differently.

What are the impacts of chronic pain?

Chronic pain can negatively affect your mood, relationships, and body.

This can impact your quality of life, work, education, and social participation.3

People experiencing chronic pain often also experience depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and fatigue. These co-occurring conditions can contribute to poorer health, societal and financial outcomes.3,4

People experiencing chronic pain also have a 20% greater suicide risk than the rest of the population.5

And, chronic pain is estimated to be Australia’s third most costly health condition in terms of health spending – the cost of chronic pain in Australia is estimated to be $215.6 billion dollars by 2050.6,7

How common is chronic pain?

Chronic pain affects the quality of life of more than 3.4 million Australians (14%), including children and young people.8,6

1 in 5 Australians over the age of 45 lives with chronic pain.9

1 in 4 Australians over the age of 85 lives with chronic pain.10

40% of forced retirements are due to chronic pain.11

Between 50 – 80% of people experiencing chronic pain are undertreated, despite effective care options being available.12

Chronic pain particularly affects older people, women, and those experiencing disadvantaged socioeconomic and health status.8,9,13


  1. Pain Australia. Survey Report: Impact of opioid regulatory reforms on people living with chronic pain 2022 [cited 2023 21 Jan].
  2. Pain Australia. The Nature and Science of Pain: Pain Australia; 2018 [cited 2023 18 Jan].
  3. Karapetyan AA, Manvelyan HM. Chronic Pain and Depression. Rijeka: IntechOpen; 2017 [cited 2023 18 Jan].
  4. Hadi MA, McHugh GA, Closs SJ. Impact of Chronic Pain on Patients’ Quality of Life: A Comparative Mixed-Methods Study. J Patient Exp [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2023 18 Jan]; 6(2):[133-41 pp.].
  5. Racine M. Chronic pain and suicide risk: A comprehensive review. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry [Internet]. 2018 2018/12/20/ [cited 2023 18 Jan]; 87:[269-80 pp.].
  6. Pain Australia. The cost of pain in Australia 2019 [cited 2023 18 Jan].
  7. MBF Foundation; University of Sydney Pain Management Research Institute. The high price of pain: the economic impact of persistent pain in Australia: Access Economics; MBF Foundation; University of Sydney Pain Management Research Institute; 2007 [cited 2023 18 Jan].
  8. Blyth FM, March LM, Brnabic AJ, Jorm LR, Williamson M, Cousins MJ.Chronic pain in Australia: a prevalence study. Pain [Internet]. 2001 Jan [cited 2023 18 Jan]; 89(2-3):[127-34 pp.].
  9. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Chronic pain in Australia Canberra: AIHW; 2020 [cited 2023 18 Jan].
  10. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Older Australians Canberra: AIHW; 2021 [cited 2023 18 Jan].
  11. Schofield DJ, Shrestha RN, Passey ME, Earnest A, Fletcher SL. Chronic disease and labour force participation among older Australians. Medical Journal of Australia [Internet]. 2008 [cited 2023 18 Jan]; 189(8):[447-50 pp.].
  12. Pain Australia. National Pain Strategy 2010 [cited 2023 18 Jan].
  13. Diatchenko L, Fillingim RB, Smith SB, Maixner W. The phenotypic and genetic signatures of common musculoskeletal pain conditions. Nat Rev Rheumatol [Internet]. 2013 Jun [cited 2023 18 Jan]; 9(6):[340-50 pp.].

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