What is a chronic illness and what is chronic pain?

Chronic illness

Chronic illnesses are long-term conditions characterized by complex causes; multiple risks; long periods of latency (the time between exposure to the illness and feeling its affects); and impairment or disability. Common chronic physical illnesses include coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, hepatitis C, and oral diseases.[1] Long-term mental health illnesses are also considered chronic illnesses, and include depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.[2]

Chronic Pain

Pain is defined as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or experienced in terms of such damage.[3] Chronic pain refers to pain that has persisted for a period longer than three months.[4] This form of pain is now considered to be a disease in its own right [5], rather than just being a symptom of some other condition, as it is often experienced for many months or years despite attempts to treat it with medications and other therapies.[6]


[1] State Government Victoria, 2012

[2] Gray, 2015

[3] Merskey & Bogduk, 1994

[4] Merskey & Bogduk, 1994

[5] Tracey & Bushnell, 2009

[6] Gray, 2015