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Australians facing chronic pain ‘epidemic’

More Australians than ever are seeing their GP for chronic pain, new statistics reveal.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report, which looked at data from 2015–16, revealed that one in five – or 1.6 million Australians – aged over 45 lived with persistent, ongoing pain.

And between 2006–07 and 2015–16, the rate of GP visits for chronic back pain or unspecific chronic pain increased by 67 per cent.

People with chronic pain were more likely to be female and older, and stay longer in hospital.

The rates were most acute among people aged over 85, where one in four people were living with chronic pain.

AIHW spokesperson Katherine Faulks said people with chronic pain were more likely than those without to experience mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, sleep disturbance and fatigue.

Faulks said that those with chronic pain aged 45 and older were almost three times as likely to have been dispensed pain medication like opioids as those without chronic pain.

Painaustralia chief executive Carol Bennett said Australia was facing a pain epidemic.

Bennett added that while the last few years have seen multiple attempts to reduce opioid related harm, “clearly more needs to be done”.

“We need better awareness among consumers and doctors about pain management treatment options – and we need to ensure those options exist,” she said.

“Where pain medication is prescribed, people living with pain will also benefit from a multidisciplinary approach to their care, such as a physiotherapist, psychologist, occupational therapist or other allied health services.”

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One comment

  1. Yet despite this data, work on medicinal cannabis in Australia is woefully slow. Chronic pain is one of the areas of most efficacy and evidence.