Gender Differences in the Prevalence of Chronic Pain and Leisure Time Physical Activity Among US Adults: A NHANES Study
Gender disparities in chronic pain are well documented in the literature. However, little is known regarding the relationship between physical activity (PA) and gender disparities in chronic pain. This study described gender differences in prevalence of chronic pain and PA, and identified a type of leisure time PA that individuals frequently chose in a nationally representative sample of US adults (N = 14,449). Data from the National Health Nutrition Examination Survey 1999–2004 were analyzed. Individuals were categorized into no chronic pain (NCP), localized chronic pain (LCP), and widespread chronic pain (WCP) groups based on responses to a pain questionnaire. A self-report PA questionnaire was used to estimate the time spent in different types of PA. Women showed higher prevalence of LCP and WCP compared to men. Men spent more hours per week for leisure time PA compared to women, but men and women showed similar prevalence of sufficient PA to meet a PA recommendation (≥150 min/week of moderate-to-vigorous intensity PA) across chronic pain categories. However, the prevalence of sufficient PA was substantially higher among men and women with NCP compared to men and women with LCP and WCP. Additionally, both men and women chose walking as the primary type of leisure time PA. Together, gender disparities exist in the prevalence of chronic pain and hours spent for leisure time PA. More research is needed to explore the role of increasing leisure time PA, such as walking, in reducing gender disparities in chronic pain.