Chronic pain in families: a cross-sectional study of shared social, behavioural, and environmental influences

Generation Scotland

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Chronic pain is common and creates a significant burden to the individual and society. Emerging research has shown the influence of the family environment on pain outcomes. However, it is not clear what shared factors between family members associate with chronic pain. This study aimed to investigate the family-level contribution to an individual's chronic pain status. This was a cross-sectional study using the Generation Scotland: Scottish Family Health Study data set. This study focused on a nested cohort of dyads (only 2 relatives per family, n = 2714). Multi-level modelling was first performed to estimate the extent of variance in chronic pain at the family level. Then each member of the dyad was randomly assigned as either the exposure or outcome family member, and logistic regression was used to identify shared factors associated with the outcome of chronic pain status. Multi-level modelling showed just under 10% of variation in chronic pain status was at a family level. There was an increase in odds of chronic pain if exposure family member had chronic pain (odds ratio [OR]: 1.30, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.02-1.65), if both were women (OR: 1.39, 95% CI: 0.99-1.94), if both were older in age (OR: 1.80, 95% CI: 1.31-2.48), and if both had low household income (OR: 3.27, 95% CI: 1.72-6.21). These findings show that most explanation for chronic pain is still at the individual level. However, some significant shared effects between family members associate with chronic pain, and this highlights the influence of the family context.This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CCBY), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Journal Article


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