The effect of chronic pain on life satisfaction: evidence from Australian data

Paul McNamee, Silvia Mendolia

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65 Citations (Scopus)
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Chronic pain is associated with significant costs to individuals directly affected by this condition, their families, the healthcare system, and the society as a whole. This paper investigates the relationship between chronic pain and life satisfaction using a sample of around 90,000 observations from the first ten waves of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics of Australia Survey (HILDA), which is a representative survey of the Australian population that started in 2000. We estimate the negative impact on life satisfaction and examine the persistence of the effect over multiple years. Chronic pain is associated with poor health conditions, disability, decreased participation in the labour market and lower quality of life. We calculate the compensating income variation of chronic pain, based on the measurement of chronic pain, the life satisfaction of individuals and the income of households. Panel data models with random and fixed effects are used to control for characteristics of individuals that do not vary over time. Further, we investigate whether individuals who experience chronic pain exhibit adaptation and recovery in life satisfaction after 3 years. Overall, we find that chronic pain has a large negative association with life satisfaction, and that the compensating income variation is substantial (around 640 US$ per day).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-73
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date21 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014

Bibliographical note

We thank the participants of the 2014 Health Economics Study Group in Sheffield for their useful comments and suggestions. We are grateful to Dr. Agne Suziedelyte and Professor Denzil Fiebig for useful discussions on the methodology of the paper. Special thanks to two anonymous referees and Editor Joanna Coast for valuable comments and suggestions. This paper uses unit record data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. The HILDA Project was initiated and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services (DSS) and is managed by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research (Melbourne Institute). The findings and views reported in this paper, however, are those of the authors and should not be attributed to either DSS or the Melbourne Institute. The Health Economics Research Unit is supported in part by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates.


  • Australia
  • chronic pain
  • life satisfaction
  • compensating income variation
  • adaptation
  • fixed effects


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