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Chronic Pain in Veterans

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Even though many Regular Force Veterans released since 1998* are doing well in life, many report chronic pain. In fact, chronic pain is much more prevalent in these Veterans than in the general population, and has significant well-being impacts.

Chronic Pain in Veterans

  • Chronic physical health conditions were 2-3 times more common in Veterans than in the Canadian general population
  • 41% had chronic pain or discomfort, about twice the 22% rate in the Canadian general population
  • 79% of those who attributed health conditions to prior military service had chronic pain
  • 63% with chronic pain had diagnosed mental health conditions

Of those with mental health conditions:

  • 91% also had a chronic physical health condition
  • 62% had chronic pain
  • 57% had activities reduced by pain

Well-Being Impacts of Chronic Pain in Veterans

  • 54% had past-month pain interference with work
  • 59% with difficult adjustment to civilian life had chronic pain
  • 77% with chronic pain had life stress most days
  • 62% with activity reduction had chronic pain
  • Odds of having activity limitations were 11 times greater in those with chronic pain than in those without pain
  • 65% with past-year suicidal ideation and 76% with past-year suicide attempts had chronic pain
  • VAC disability benefits are commonly given for medical conditions associated with pain

Veterans Who More Often Have Chronic Pain


  • 45-54 years of age
  • Women
  • 10-19 years of service
  • Lower education
  • Unemployed
  • Non-commissioned ranks

Women Veterans:

  • Pain-related reduction in activities more often than men

Release from Service:

  • In those with chronic pain, 45% were medically released but 55% were released for other reasons, most commonly voluntary release

Veterans in VAC Programs:

  • 65% of VAC clients had chronic pain or discomfort
  • Of Veterans with chronic pain, one in four were not participating in VAC programs

*Source: Life After Service Studies (LASS). See references next page.

Info Brief References (Chronic Pain in Veterans):

Thompson JM, Hopman W, Sweet J, VanTil L, MacLean MB, VanDenKerkhof E, Sudom K, Poirier A, Pedlar D. Health-related quality of life of Canadian Forces Veterans after transition to civilian life. Can J Public Health. 2013;104(1):e15-e21.

Thompson JM, VanTil L, Zamorski MA, Garber B, Dursun S, Fikretoglu D, Ross D, Richardson JD, Sareen J, Sudom K, Courchesne C, Pedlar D. Mental health of Canadian Armed Forces Veterans – Review of Population Studies. JMVFH. 2015;2(1):70-86.

Thompson JM, Zamorski M, Sweet J, VanTil L, Sareen J, Pietrzak R, Hopman W, MacLean MB, Pedlar D. Roles of physical and mental health in suicidal ideation in Canadian Armed Forces Regular Force Veterans. Can J Pub Health. 2014:e109-115.

VanDenKerkhof EG, Carley ME, Hopman WM, Ross-White A, Harrison MB. Prevalence of chronic pain and related risk factors in military veterans: A systematic review. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews & Implementation Reports 2014;12:152-86.

VanDenKerkhof EG, VanTil L, Thompson JM, Sweet J, Hopman WM, Carley M. Sudom K. Pain in Canadian Veterans: Analysis of data from the Survey on Transition to Civilian Life. 2015. Pain Res Manag. Mar-Apr;20(2):89-95.

Van Til LD, Sweet J, Poirier A, McKinnon K, Sudom K, Dursun S, Pedlar D. Well-Being of Canadian Regular Force Veterans, Findings from LASS 2016 Survey. Charlottetown PE: Veterans Affairs Canada. Research Directorate Technical Report, 23 June 2017.

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