Epidemiology of chronic pain and its treatment in the Netherlands

GE Bekkering, MM (Malgorzata) Bala, K Reid, E Kellen, J Harker, R Riemsma, Frank Huygen, J Kleijnen

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Background: Chronic pain is common; however, good epidemiological data are scarce. Such information can help all the involved stakeholders to make responsible decisions about health budgets and prioritisation. This study aims to provide best-evidence epidemiological information about chronic pain in the Netherlands. Methods: We performed a systematic search which yielded 16,619 references, 119 Dutch studies were relevant. We selected at least three studies per question that provided the most recent, representative and valid data. Results: The prevalence of moderate to severe general chronic pain among Dutch adults was estimated at 18%. This prevalence was 27% and 55% for any cancer pain. Up to 74% of patients with general or non-cancer chronic pain get treated; this percentage is little higher for patients with cancer pain. A substantial proportion of the patients receive drug treatment for their pain, mainly NSAIDs, but also non-pharmacological interventions for pain are being used. Up to 43% of the chronic non-cancer pain patients report not receiving treatment and up to 79% of the patients believe their pain is inadequately treated. All studies reported a detrimental effect of chronic pain on quality of life, activities of daily living and mental health. Chronic pain is also associated with direct and indirect medical costs, and patients may have decreased income and additional out-of pocket expenses. Conclusion: Chronic pain occurs frequently, has a negative impact on the patient and society and treatment may not always be adequate. Chronic pain should be seen as an important public health problem deserving more attention of Dutch healthcare workers and policy makers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-+
JournalNetherlands Journal of Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

PubMed ID: 21444943

Research programs

  • EMC COEUR-09


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