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Chronic pain: in Italy it affects 10 million adults, especially women

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Chronic pain: in Italy it affects 10 million adults, especially women

In Italy there are over 10 million adults who suffer from chronic pain. The estimate, the first validated at national level, is contained in relationship ‘Chronic pain in Italy and its psychosocial correlates from the ‘European health interview survey’ 2019′, published by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (iss).

The survey on 44 thousand participants

The survey involved over 44,000 Participants, of which approximately 38,800 responded to the short questionnaire on chronic pain, included in the European health survey conducted by Istat.

The results show that chronic pain affects ten million people (around 4 million men and almost 6 and a half million women) and is present in 8% of the population aged 18-44, with an increase to 21.3%. among 45-54 year olds, to 35% among the so-called ‘young elderly’ (65-74 year olds), up to 50% in those aged over eighty-five.

Eliminate pain in four ways (and without drugs) by Valentina Arcovio 13 January 2023

The women most affected

For chronic pain, gender inequalities are confirmed: the gap in prevalence estimates between males and females begins in fact already at the age of 35, and gradually widens to the detriment of females, with percentages more than more 15 points among seniors (65 years and older). Overall, 60% of adults with chronic pain in Italy are female.

The elderly in the South are worse off

The distribution of this condition is variable across Italy, with a more evident disadvantage in the south for individuals aged 65 and over. The causes that may be at the origin, or are in any case underlying the onset of chronic pain, include a primary disease, already diagnosed, usually related to a state of pain (52%), a trauma (21%), an operation surgery (7%) or a tumor (3%).

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One in 10 is undiagnosed

There is a not insignificant share of people with chronic pain who does not yet have a clear diagnosis of the disease, 13%, and who report high or very high intensity of pain in 23% of cases.

The repercussions on mental health

On the mental health side, as many as 13% of those suffering from chronic pain have moderate to severe depressive symptoms compared to less than 2% in the unaffected population. There is a co-morbid condition between chronic pain and depression to the detriment of female people and people with a lower level of education.

The study fills a knowledge gap that, at least in part, had persisted since the early 2000s, in which Harald Breivik and colleagues at the University of Oslo conducted asurvey on chronic pain in European countries. The high prevalence of chronic pain in the adult population and the other estimates presented in the report, referring, for example, to comorbidities, mental health, the role of sociodemographic factors or the impact of chronic pain on work and disability, offer an epidemiological picture invaluable for the identification of diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation needs, for the definition of prevention models and, last but not least, the definition of social-welfare support plans.

Immersing yourself in the woods against chronic pain and more: it is forest therapy by Priscilla Di Thiene 07 August 2022

What is monitoring for?

The phenomenon thus outlined requires adequate attention and reliable and validated measurements. With this first report, the ISS inaugurates the epidemiological monitoring of chronic pain in the country, with the contribution and collaboration of Istat and the Isal foundation (institute for the research and study of pain).

The informative impact that this monitoring produces has allowed, already in 2020, its inclusion in the national statistical program and will hopefully favor the full application of what the Italian law has already provided for since 2010 regarding access to the therapy network of pain for everyone.

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