Chronic widespread pain prevalence in the general population: a systematic review

Pamela Andrews*, M. Steultjens, J. Riskowski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)
122 Downloads (Pure)


Chronic widespread pain (CWP) is a significant burden in communities. Understanding the impact of population-dependent (e.g., age, gender) and contextual-dependent (e.g. survey method, region, inequality level) factors have on CWP prevalence may provide a foundation for population-based strategies to address CWP. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to estimate the global prevalence of CWP and evaluate the population and contextual factors associated with CWP. A systematic review of CWP prevalence studies (1990–2017) in the general population was undertaken. Meta-analyses were conducted to determine CWP prevalence, and study population data and contextual factors were evaluated using a meta-regression. Thirty-nine manuscripts met the inclusion criteria. Study CWP prevalence ranged from 1.4% to 24.0%, with CWP prevalence in men ranging from 0.8% to 15.3% and 1.7% to 22.1% in women. Estimated overall CWP prevalence was 9.6% (8.0–11.2%). Meta-regression analyses showed gender, United Nations country development status, and human development index (HDI) influenced CWP prevalence, while survey method, region, methodological and reporting quality, and inequality showed no significant effect on the CWP estimate. Globally CWP affects one in ten individuals within the general population, with women more likely to experience CWP than men. HDI was noted to be the socioeconomic factor related to CWP prevalence, with those in more developed countries having a lower CWP prevalence than those in less developed countries. Most CWP estimates were from developed countries, and CWP estimates from countries with a lower socioeconomic position is needed to further refine the global estimate of CWP. Significance: This systematic review and meta-analysis updates the current global CWP prevalence by examining the population-level (e.g. age, gender) and contextual (e.g. country development status; survey style; reporting and methodologic quality) factors associated with CWP prevalence. This analyses provides evidence to support higher levels of CWP in countries with a lower socioeconomic position relative to countries with a higher socioeconomic position.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-18
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Issue number1
Early online date17 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • chronic widespread pain
  • communities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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