BACKGROUND: There is considerable variation in adolescent pain prevalence across epidemiological studies, with limited information on pain-related behaviours among adolescents, including medicine use. The aims of this study were (1) to examine the prevalence of recurrent pain among 15-year-old adolescents internationally; (2) to investigate the association between recurrent pain and medicine use behaviours among boys and girls; and (3) to evaluate the consistency of these associations across countries. METHODS: The World Health Organization (WHO) collaborative international Health Behaviour in School-aged Children 2009/2010 study collects data about self-reported aches and medicine use from 36,762 15-year-old adolescents from 22 countries/regions in Europe and the United States. Multi-level multivariate logistic regression, stratified by gender, was used to analyse the association between recurrent pain and medicine use for headache, stomachache, nervousness and difficulties in getting to sleep. RESULTS: More than 30% of adolescents reported recurrent headache, almost 30% recurrent backache and approximately 20% recurrent stomachache. Although pain prevalence and medicine use for aches were much higher for girls, the association between pain and medicine use was similarly strong for both genders. Adolescents with recurrent pain are more likely to use medicines also for non-corresponding pain, nervousness and difficulties in getting to sleep. The association between recurrent pain and medicine use was consistent across countries despite large-country differences in the prevalence of recurrent pain and medicine use. CONCLUSIONS: Recurrent pain in adolescence is common cross-nationally. Adolescents with recurrent pain are more likely to use medicine in general. Recurrent pain and medicine use should be addressed in adolescent health policies.
European Journal of Pain, 2015, Vol 19, Issue 1, p. 77-84