European Map of Pain

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Chronic Pain

An autonomous Disease

Generally, pain is considered to be chronic if it persists more than three to six months, although it may demonstrate characteristics of chronic pain much earlier. In contrast to acute pain, chronic pain has lost its warning and protective function and becomes a disease in its own right.

Chronic pain is a very common disease. In Europe it strikes almost one in five (19 per cent) adults, and its prevalence is on the rise. One-third of these European chronic pain sufferers are in severe pain, and almost half have constant pain.1

Chronic Pain greatly impairs Patients’ Quality of Life

A patient’s quality of life can be tremendously affected if chronic pain is not appropriately treated. In addition to constantly suffering from pain, the patient may experience consequences like sleeping disorders, reduced mobility or depression. For these patients, pain means being handicapped physically, socially and psychologically:

  • Two-thirds of pain sufferers are less able or unable to sleep
  • About 60 per cent of patients with chronic pain are less able or unable to work outside their homes
  • One in five chronic pain sufferers have been diagnosed with depression as a result of their pain
  • About 40% of patients with chronic pain are less able or unable to have sexual relations
  • About 25% of patients with chronic pain are less able or unable to maintain relationships with family and friends

In addition to its impact on patients’ quality of life, chronic pain is also a substantial financial burden for society. Chronic pain is one of the most cost-intensive forms of suffering in industrialised countries. Across the EU chronic pain accounts for nearly 500 million lost working days every year – costing the European economy around €34 billion2. One in five chronic pain sufferers have lost a job as a result of their pain.1

1 Breivik H et al.: Survey of chronic pain in Europe: Prevalence, impact on daily life, and treatment. European Journal of Pain, 2006; 10:287-333
2 Wiffen P: Pain – there is a lot of it. Eur J Hosp Pharm; 2013; 20:1


M-N/A-UK-10-18-0001       Date of preparation October 2018