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Logo for the Journal of Rehab R&D
Volume 40 Number 5, September/October 2003
Pages 371 — 379


Veterans' reports of pain and associations with ratings of health, health-risk behaviors, affective distress, and use of the healthcare system
Robert D. Kerns, PhD; John Otis, PhD; Roberta Rosenberg, MS; M. Carrington Reid, MD, PhD
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, CT, and Yale University,
New Haven CT; VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, MA; Pfizer Incorporated, Groton, CT; Cornell Medical
College, New York, NY
Abstract-The improved management of pain among veterans seeking care in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities has been established as a priority. This study documents the high prevalence of reports of pain among a convenience sample of 685 veterans seeking care in a VHA primary care setting. Also reported are associations of pain complaints with self-rated health, an index of emotional distress, health-risk behaviors such as tobacco and alcohol use, health-related concerns about diet and weight, and perceptions of the availability of social support. The relationship between the presence of pain and use of outpatient and inpatient medical and mental health services is also examined. Nearly 50% of the sample reported that they experience pain regularly and that they were concerned about this problem at the time of the index visit to their primary care provider. Persons acknowledging the presence of pain, relative to those not reporting pain, were younger, reported worsening health over the past year, had greater emotional distress, used tobacco, had diet and/or weight concerns, and were found to use more outpatient medical, but not inpatient medical or mental health services. Results support the goals of the VHA National Pain Management Strategy designed to reduce unnecessary pain and suffering among veterans receiving care in VHA facilities.
Key words: emotional distress, health-risk behaviors, health services use, pain, primary care.

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