Strong cultural differences in attitudes to pain and its treatment;
Advice sought predominantly from health professionals
Bristol-Myers Squibb / UPSA Division – Ifop
Rueil Malmaison, 14th October 2010 – 4 days before the Global Day Against Pain, the UPSA Division of Bristol-Myers Squibb presented the findings of the first survey of Europeans and pain, conducted in partnership with Ifop, covering a sample of over 3000 people* While Europeans in general and the French in particular consider it normal to treat pain, this is less the case among the British. The British are also the least affected by the impact of pain on their daily life. Women appear more affected by everyday pain than men, notably with regard to backache and headache, the two principal sources of pain among Europeans. Pain is invariably considered a handicap in all aspects of everyday life (sexual, professional, familial or even leisure activities). Drugs remain the first resort in the event of pain, notably paracetamol in France, ibuprofen in Spain, and aspirin in Italy For the majority of Europeans, and in particular for the Germans, health professionals are the reference in terms of advice.
Pain management: wide differences from one country to another Pain relief: considered normal by the French, less so by the British Findings show that while pain management is looked on as normal by the majority of Europeans (54%), this figure hides considerable differences depending on the country. The French are the most inclined to seek pain relief, with 94% of the population finding this to be a normal approach. The British take the opposite view, with only 31% of the population feeling this way. Personal experience of pain
In Europe, women suffer more than men as far as all the everyday pain covered in this survey is concerned (backache, headache, joint pain, stiffness, stomach-ache, toothache, migraine). The difference is particularly marked in the case of backache (68% vs 56%) and headache (63% vs 41%). The type of profession has little impact on experience of pain, despite the more marked differences for backache, which affects employees or workers (62%) more than intermediate professions or management (55%), for headache (60% and 53% respectively), and menstrual pain for women (53% vs 45%). Backache: the leading source of pain among Europeans…followed by headache Backache affects almost two-thirds of the Europeans interviewed. It is the primary cause of pain in all countries covered in the survey, the highest frequency being in Germany (68% of the population), the lowest in Italy (55% of the population), and affecting two-thirds of those in France. Women appear subject to this type of pain more than men (notably in Spain, with 73% and 50% respectively), as do the elderly (notably in France with 67% of those over 65 against 52% of those aged 18-24). Headache comes in second position, with more than half the Europeans declaring they suffer “often” or “occasionally” from this type of pain. Again, more women than men appear affected, with 63% among women and 41% among men. Migraine affects 22% of Europeans (“often” or “occasional y”). Once more it is women who are the most affected. French (34%), Italian and Spanish (33%) women are particularly vulnerable, while British and German women are the least affected (25% and 21% respectively). Other everyday pains represent a significant handicap for Europeans Joint pain comes in third place, affecting especially the elderly over the age of 65 (67% against 30% among those aged under 25), as does stiffness, although to a lesser extent (53% against 43%).
Pain impacts significantly on all aspects of everyday life
One out of two Europeans considers that the discomfort of pain impacts on their everyday life. This is true for all countries and whatever the type of activity (professional, familial, intimate or leisure). Notable differences between countries do emerge, however, with a significantly lower proportion in the UK: while one in two Europeans finds pain has significant repercussions on everyday life, in the UK the proportion is only about one in three. Attitudes to pain
The delay before treating pain (with drugs or other means) also appears variable depending on the country: while more than half the Spanish wait less than an hour before treating their pain, nearly 40% of Germans wait for over two hours. On a European level there is no marked difference between the sub-groups (sex, age, occupation), but British women appear more reactive than their male compatriots, 45% saying they treat their pain within the hour, against 36% for men. Drugs: the primary solution for pain relief
Drugs are by far the most used solution for pain relief (86% of Europeans), and the first resort for the majority (73%). More natural alternatives, while not as popular as drugs, are nevertheless adopted by a considerable proportion of the population, with 32% declaring recourse to treatment by exposure to heat or cold, 29% to massages, and 27% to relaxation exercises. Essential oils, acupuncture and hypnosis are used only marginally (respectively 7%, 2% and 1% of Europeans). As far as these alternative treatments are concerned, each country has its preference, with notably a greater use of heat or cold treatment among Germans (50%), of massages among Spanish (38%), and of relaxation methods by Italians (34%). Paracetamol: the leading anti-pain agent in Europe
As for the type of anti-pain drugs used, marked preferences appear per country, with paracetamol being overall the most popular, notably in France (65%) and the UK (49%). Spain stands out from other European countries for its greater use of ibuprofen (43%, against 35% for paracetamol). Italians more readily turn to aspirin (33%), which is also the choice for 25% of Germans. The GP remains the leading reference for advice on treatment of pain
Three-quarters of Europeans prioritize referral to a GP when seeking pain relief. Moreover, for 52% of people interviewed the GP is the first person consulted. Participants also express confidence in their pharmacist (52%), but only 15% in people close to them, while 10% do not seek advice from anyone.
When suffering from pain, the British prefer self-medication, Germans consult
In detail, interesting idiosyncrasies emerge in the different countries: in Germany 68% declare they turn first to their GP for consultation, whereas the British tend to seek a first opinion from the pharmacist (20%) or family or friends (19%) rather than their doctor (18%). The British are also the most numerous in not seeking advice from anyone (30%). Little reference to the media as a source of advice for treatment of everyday pain
Internet is consulted by only 15% of Europeans suffering from pain, its use being greatest in Germany (22%) and the UK (22%). The press is the least used source of information on this topic, mentioned by only 1% of Europeans. “In addition to being a much researched and increasingly understood physiological process, pain is also a function of our environment and our culture” said Eric Boccard, Director of the UPSA Pain Institute. “This first study casts new light on the behaviour of patients according to their country of origin and the importance of health professionals in the pain management process ….al key elements in the management of pain on a daily basis by the various intermediaries” *Methodology Study conducted by Ifop on behalf of UPSA Division of Bristol-Myers Squibb among a sample of 1009 French, 503 Germans, 502 Spanish, 511 Italians and 505 British individuals aged 18 and over, representative of the population (quota method – sex, age, occupation) after regional stratification. Interviews were carried out using online self-completion questionnaire (CAWI – Computer Assisted Web Interview) between 11th and 19th March 2010. About Bristol-Myers Squibb UPSA Division
Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company focused on its mission to discover, develop and deliver innovative drugs to help patients combat serious diseases. In 1994 UPSA became a 100% subsidiary of Bristol-Myers Squibb. For further information, consult their internet site:
The UPSA Pain Institute has participated in the Global Day Against Pain since 2008. In 2009 the UPSA Pain Institute supported the organisation of this day among 150 health establishments throughout France. The UPSA Pain Institute has made nearly 22 500 works, publications and brochures available to health professionals and patients. All these can be consulted on the UPSA Pain Institute’s websit Press contacts
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