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This article is part of the supplement: Women's Health Surveillance Report

Open Access Report

Chronic Pain: The Extra Burden on Canadian Women

Marta Meana1*, Robert Cho2 and Marie DesMeules3

Author affiliations

1 Department of Psychology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA, 89154-5030

2 Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control, Health Canada, 120 Colonnade Rd, Ottawa, Canada

3 Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control, Health Canada, 120 Colonnade Rd, Ottawa, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Women's Health 2004, 4(Suppl 1):S17  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-4-S1-S17

Published: 25 August 2004


Health Issue

Chronic pain is a major health problem associated with significant costs to both afflicted individuals and society as a whole. These costs seem to be disproportionately borne by women, who generally have higher prevalence rates for chronic pain than do men.

Key findings

Data obtained from 125,574 respondents to the Canadian Community Health Survey (2000–2001) indicated that 18% of Canadian women suffered from chronic pain, compared to 14% of men. This gender discrepancy, however, seemed to be linked primarily to differences in age, income, and education between adult men and women in this large sample. Age, income, depression and functional interference with activities were strongly associated with chronic pain in general. No gender differences were found in the intensity of pain experienced. Ethnicity was not strongly associated with chronic pain prevalence, although Asians were the group with the highest chronic pain prevalence in the over-65 age group and Aboriginal Canadians had the highest prevalence in the under-65 age group.

Data Gaps and Recommendations

Current gaps in our knowledge include the types of chronic pain women experience, their impact on domestic responsibilities and parenting and health care utilization patterns of women with chronic pain. Data sources such as provincial databases of billing claims may be useful in the future to enrich our knowledge of health care utilization and analgesic medication use. Enhanced surveillance, assessment, and early identification of pain disorders are recommended to improve outcomes. Considering current demographic patterns toward an older population, there is also some urgency to the development of patient education and self-management programs.