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Studies prove poverty link to poor health

Increasing pain severity is linked to socio-economic disadvantage, with low income/ education patients finding it difficult to get quality healthcare

Two studies published last week have confirmed that increasing pain severity is linked to socio-economic disadvantage and that those with low income or low education would find it difficult to get quality, affordable healthcare for a family member who became very ill.

The first study found that, compared with those not suffering pain, people with severe pain are nine times more likely to be unable to work due to sickness. Consequently, more than half (51.8 per cent) of the 9,419 UK respondents who were in severe pain earned below £15,600 per annum, with 55.2 per cent of this group receiving non-pension related benefits. Among the survey respondents not experiencing pain, only a quarter (25.6 per cent) earned below £15,000, with just 12.2 per cent of the group receiving non-pension related benefits.

The study also established links between reduced mental health, as measured by the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ12), and socio-economic disadvantage.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Joan Hester, past president of the British Pain Society and consultant in pain medicine at King's College Hospital, London, said: "The impact of moderate and severe pain is considerable in terms of work productivity and costs to healthcare services."

The study, using data extracted from the Health Survey for England 2005, was funded by Grunenthal and presented at the British Pain Society Annual Scientific Meeting on Thursday, April 15.

The second study, a Reuters News poll conducted by Ipsos and also released on April 15, surveyed more than 23,000 adults from 22 countries and found that 52 per cent of all respondents would find it difficult to get quality, affordable healthcare services for a family member who became very ill. The global figure was higher than the British result, in which 45 per cent of respondents answered that they would find this difficult.

Of the global respondents, 56 per cent of low income and 56 per cent of low education respondents indicated that it would be difficult to secure quality, affordable healthcare. This compares with 53 per cent of higher income and 51 per cent of higher education respondents who answered that they would find it easy to access quality, affordable healthcare.

In combination, these survey results seem to indicate that poor health, whether in terms of pain or poor mental health, is likely to decrease a person's socio-economic level, in turn making it more difficult for patients to access quality healthcare. This then creates an ongoing cycle of poor health and poor socio-economic standing.

Heather Wallace, chair of charity Pain Concern, commented: "[Proper training for healthcare professionals to improve the treatment of pain] would reduce the burden on the NHS as well as improving patients' socio-economic status."

19th April 2010

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