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Scandinavian Journal of Pain

Official Journal of the Scandinavian Association for the Study of Pain

Editor-in-Chief: Breivik, Harald

CiteScore 2017: 0.84

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.401
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.452

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Volume 18, Issue 1


What are the similarities and differences between healthy people with and without pain?

Jennifer N. Baldwin
  • Corresponding author
  • Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences, Auckland University of Technology, Private Bag 92006, Auckland 1142, New Zealand, Tel.: +64 921 9999 ext 7157
  • The University of Sydney, Faculty of Health Sciences, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Marnee J. McKay / Joshua Burns
  • The University of Sydney, Faculty of Health Sciences, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Paediatric Gait Analysis Service of New South Wales, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (Randwick and Westmead), Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Claire E. Hiller / Elizabeth J. Nightingale / Niamh Moloney
  • The University of Sydney, Faculty of Health Sciences, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Department of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2018-02-02 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sjpain-2017-0156


Background and aims:

Knowledge of pain characteristics among the healthy population or among people with minimal pain-related disability could hold important insights to inform clinical practice and research. This study investigated pain prevalence among healthy individuals and compared psychosocial and physical characteristics between adults with and without pain.


Data were from 1,000 self-reported healthy participants aged 3–101 years (1,000 Norms Project). Single-item questions assessed recent bodily pain (“none” to “very severe”) and chronic pain (pain every day for 3 months in the previous 6 months). Assessment of Quality of Life (AQoL) instrument, New Generalised Self-Efficacy Scale, International Physical Activity Questionnaire, 6-min walk test, 30-s chair stand and timed up-and-down stairs tests were compared between adults with and without pain.


Seventy-two percent of adults and 49% of children had experienced recent pain, although most rated their pain as mild (80% and 87%, respectively). Adults with recent pain were more likely to be overweight/obese and report sleep difficulties, and had lower self-efficacy, AQoL mental super dimension scores and sit-to-stand performance, compared to adults with no pain (p<0.05). Effect sizes were modest (Cohen’s d=0.16–0.39), therefore unlikely clinically significant. Chronic pain was reported by 15% of adults and 3% of children. Adults with chronic pain were older, more likely to be overweight/obese, and had lower AQoL mental super dimension scores, 6-min walk, sit-to-stand and stair-climbing performance (p<0.05). Again, effect sizes were modest (Cohen’s d=0.25–0.40).


Mild pain is common among healthy individuals. Adults who consider themselves healthy but experience pain (recent/chronic) display slightly lower mental health and physical performance, although these differences are unlikely clinically significant.


These findings emphasise the importance of assessing pain-related disability in addition to prevalence when considering the disease burden of pain. Early assessment of broader health and lifestyle risk factors in clinical practice is emphasised. Avenues for future research include examination of whether lower mental health and physical performance represent risk factors for future pain and whether physical activity levels, sleep and self-efficacy are protective against chronic pain-related disability.

Keywords: pain; pain assessment; health; activities of daily living


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About the article

Received: 2017-10-29

Accepted: 2017-12-09

Published Online: 2018-02-02

Published in Print: 2018-01-26

Authors’ statements

Research funding: This study was supported by grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia Centre for Research Excellence in Neuromuscular Disorders (NHMRC #1031893) and Australian Podiatry Education and Research Foundation, as well as scholarship funding from the Australian Postgraduate Award from the Commonwealth Government of Australia.

Conflict of interest: There are no conflicts of interest for any of the listed authors.

Informed consent: Informed, written consent was given by all participants aged 18 years and over, or by the parent/guardian of participants aged under 18 years.

Ethical approval: The institutional Ethics Committee approved the study (HREC 2013/640).

Citation Information: Scandinavian Journal of Pain, Volume 18, Issue 1, Pages 39–47, ISSN (Online) 1877-8879, ISSN (Print) 1877-8860, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sjpain-2017-0156.

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