There may be an association among childhood pain, additional missed school days, and higher rates of chronic absenteeism, according to a study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain.

The study included participants from a large, nationally representative sample from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (n=8641). The survey was conducted via in-person interviews, and households were selected to be representative of the entire civilian, noninstitutionalized population of the United States. The survey identified childhood pain via parental responses to 10 questions.

The researchers used multivariate negative binomial models to analyze associations between pain and school absence, controlling for sociodemographic and clinical characteristics.

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The children’s age range was 6 to 17 years, with a mean age of 11.5 years. In this cohort, 30.3% reported pain during the preceding 12 months. The mean number of parent-reported school days missed was 3 per child. The results indicated that pain was associated with an additional 1.5 reported missed school day per child. In addition, pain was associated with higher rates of chronic absenteeism, defined as missing >15 days of school. Among children with pain, 6.1% were chronically absent compared with 1.3% of children without pain.

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When the researchers extrapolated their results to a nationwide level, they found that childhood pain in the United States was associated with 22.2 million additional days of missed school.

“Future research should focus on understanding mechanisms by which pain [leads] to increased school absenteeism,” the researchers noted.

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Groenewald CB, Giles M, Palermo TM. School absence associated with childhood pain in the United States [published online March 5, 2019]. Clin J Pain. doi:10.1097/AJP.0000000000000701