Head, body pain 'costs economy $8.4b yearly'

The effects of head and body pain cost Singapore's economy $8.4 billion each year, according to a global study on the impact of pain on people's lives.

Last year, workers here took an average of three days of medical leave due to pain, while those who worked through their pain had a reduced productivity of 15 per cent.

The productivity loss due to absent workers was calculated by multiplying the average number of days of medical leave, by the average daily salary, and by the employed adult population.

Many people chose not to do anything about their pain, while the majority of those who did self-diagnosed, despite having low levels of knowledge about their medicine.

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Those were some of the findings of the 2017 GSK Global Pain Index, which surveyed 19,000 adults aged 18 and above in 32 countries on acute, everyday pain. Of this number, 500 were from Singapore.

The study, commissioned by GSK Consumer Healthcare, was conducted by global insights and consultancy firm Edelman Intelligence.

Eighty-five per cent of people surveyed here suffered from head and body pain, which was the same percentage globally. The most common areas of body pain experienced were in the back, lower back and neck, while muscle, joint and nerve pain were the top three types of pain suffered here.

Dr Wong Li Lian, a senior pharmacy lecturer, said while self-care is "empowerment" and a growing trend, consumers should also be aware that not everything can be self-medicated. "What is important is for the consumer to realise that there are certain trigger factors and symptoms that warrant further referral to a doctor or further tests," said Dr Wong, who is from the department of pharmacy at the National University of Singapore.

Medical professionals can also do more to advise consumers on the resources to turn to when they self-diagnose, she added.

The survey found that fewer than a quarter of people here have knowledge about dosing and only 15 per cent know about potential risks and side effects of the medicine. In spite of that, nearly two-thirds of people here tend to self-diagnose their pain.

In addition, more than half of the people here suffer their pain in silence, while one in three ignores his pain - one of the highest proportions globally.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2017, with the headline 'Head, body pain 'costs economy $8.4b yearly''. Print Edition | Subscribe