Content » Vol 51, Issue 3

Original report

Predictors of chronic pain intensity, spread, and sensitivity in the general population: A two-year follow-up study from the SWEPAIN cohort

Britt Larsson, Elena Dragioti, Anna Grimby-Ekman, Björn Gerdle, Jonas Björk
Pain and Rehabilitation Centre, and Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, 581 85 Linköping, Sweden. E-mail:
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-2519


Objective: To determine whether the intensity, spread and sensitivity of chronic pain can be predicted using demographic features, socioeconomic conditions and comorbidities.
Design: A longitudinal study design was employed. Data was collected at baseline and at 2-year follow-up.
Setting: General population in south-eastern Sweden.
Subjects: A representative stratified random sample of 34,000 individuals, between 18 and 85 years of age, selected from a sampling frame of 404,661 individuals based on the Swedish Total Population Register.
Methods: Eligible individuals were sent postal surveys in 2013 and 2015. The 2 surveys included the same questions about basic demographic data, comorbidities, and chronic pain intensity, spread and sensitivity.
Results: Several socio-demographic features and comorbidities at baseline were significant predictors of characteristics of pain (intensity, spread and sensitivity) at the 2-year follow-up. When characteristics of pain at baseline were included in the regression analyses they were relatively strong significant predictors of characteristics of pain after 2 years. After this adjustment there were fewer socio-demogra-phic and comorbidity predictors; the effect estimates for those significant predictors had decreased.
Conclusion: Clinical assessment should focus on several characteristics of pain and include a broad medical screening to capture the overall burden of pain in adults from a longitudinal perspective.

Lay Abstract

This study shows how characteristics of chronic pain (intensity, spread and sensitivity) can be predicted using demographic and socioeconomic factors and other medical conditions. Information was collected from 34,000 individuals between 18 and 85 years of age in south-eastern Sweden. Several socio-demographic factors and other medical conditions were predictors of pain intensity, spread and sensitivity after 2 years. When pain characteristics were taken into consideration in the analysis they were relatively strong predictors of the pain characteristics after 2 years. After modification of the analysis, there were fewer socio-demographic and medical predictors and their importance had decreased. In planning treatment and rehabilitation for chronic pain, pain intensity, spread and sensitivity should specifically be taken into account.


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