Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 1, 2012

Pain prevalence in a university hospital in Iceland

  • S. Zoëga , S. Ward , T. Aspelund , H. Sveinsdóttir , G. Sigurdsson and S. Gunnarsdóttir



Despite multiple efforts to improve practice, pain is prevalent in many hospital settings causing unnecessary complications and suffering. The aim of the study was to explore the epidemiology of pain in a university hospital in Iceland.


A point prevalence study was conducted in 23 departments in medical and surgical services in a 650 bed university hospital in January 2011. Data was collected from medical charts and with a questionnaire (APS-POQ-R) assessing pain severity and quality of pain management. Participants had to be 18 years or older, hospitalized for at least 24 h, speak Icelandic, alert, and able to participate.


Of the 369 participants the mean (SD) age was 67.9 (17.6) years (range 18–100) and gender proportions were equal. Response rate was 80%. Of patients in pain (scoring ≥1 on a 0–10 scale) the mean (SD) worst pain severity was 5.6 (2.5). Total pain prevalence was 80.4%, but of patients in pain 36.5% had mild (1–4) pain, 22.6% moderate (5–6) and 40.9% had severe (7–10) pain. The mean (SD) proportion of time spent in severe pain was 25.9% (27.0%). Pain was both more prevalent, [χ2(1, N= 367) = 7.05, p = 0.008] and severe [t(365) =−4.16, p = 0.000] in women compared to men. Similarly, pain was more prevalent [χ2(1, N= 368) = 9.71, p = 0.002] and severe [t(216,2) =−3.18, p = 0.002] in surgical services compared to medical. Worst pain severity was weakly negatively associated with age [r(369) =−0.23, p = 0.000]. Worst pain severity was higher in patients receiving pain medications [t(357) =−9.84, p = 0.000] and in patients using non-pharmacological methods to treat their pain [t(311.7) =−5.76, p = 0.000].


Pain was prevalent in the hospital and an unsatisfactory proportion of patients experienced moderate to severe pain. The quality of pain management in the hospital needs to be improved. Further studies are needed to test and evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of interventions aimed at advancing pain practice in the hospital setting.

Published Online: 2012-07-01
Published in Print: 2012-07-01

© 2012 Scandinavian Association for the Study of Pain

Downloaded on 23.3.2023 from
Scroll Up Arrow