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Compared to Men, Women Veterans More Likely to Have Chronic Overlapping Pain Conditions and Higher Pain Interference and Intensity

Veterans are more likely to experience elevated rates of chronic pain and mental health comorbidities than civilians. Although studies have documented higher rates of chronic pain among women Veterans compared to men Veterans, there remains a lack of comprehensive information about potential contributors to these disparities. This study examined gender differences in chronic pain and its contributors among 419 men and 392 women Veterans enrolled in a mindfulness trial for chronic pain. Researchers analyzed baseline survey and electronic health record data from the Learning to Apply Mindfulness to Pain (LAMP) study, which was conducted with Veterans who have chronic pain and receive care within VA. LAMP was designed to address the biopsychosocial needs of women Veterans, including barriers to treatment, and examined the effects of mindfulness-based interventions on women. Study participants were recruited from November 2020 – May 2022.


  • Compared to men, women Veterans were more likely to have chronic overlapping pain conditions and had higher levels of pain interference and intensity.
  • Women had higher prevalence of psychiatric and sleep disorder diagnoses, greater levels of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, fatigue, sleep disturbance, stress, and pain catastrophizing, and lower levels of pain self-efficacy and participation in social roles and activities.
  • Women were less likely to smoke or have a substance abuse disorder and used more nonpharmacological pain treatment modalities.


  • Results point to the need for comprehensive pain treatment approaches that address the specific psychological, biological, and social contributors to pain that disproportionately affect women Veterans.


  • Researchers did not assess participants’ sexual orientation or potentially important contributors to gender differences in pain, such as early life adversity, lifetime trauma, and discrimination.

Dr. Burgess is with HSR’s Center for Care Delivery and Outcomes Research (CCDOR). This material is a product of the NIH-DOD-VA Pain Management Collaboratory.

Burgess DJ, Hagel Campbell EM, Branson M, et al. Exploring Gender Differences in Veterans in a Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness for Chronic Pain. Womens Health Rep (New Rochelle). 2024 Feb 12;5(1):82-92.

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HSR requires notification by HSR-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR published articles. Visit the HSR citations database for a complete listing of HSR articles and presentations.

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