Health Literacy, Opioid Misuse, and Pain Experience among Adults with Chronic Pain

Andrew H. Rogers, Jafar Bakhshaie, Michael F. Orr, Joseph W. Ditre, Michael J. Zvolensky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background. Chronic pain is a significant public health problem that is associated with several negative health outcomes, including increased health care cost, decreased productivity, and prescription opioid misuse. Although efforts have been made to curb the growing opioid epidemic in the United States, further research is needed to better understand individual difference factors that may be associated with greater pain and opioid misuse. Lower levels of health literacy, defined as the ability to obtain, understand, and use health information to make important decisions regarding health and medical care, has been associated with several chronic illnesses. Yet little work has examined the relationship between health literacy, pain, and opioid misuse among individuals with chronic pain. Methods. The current study examined health literacy in relation to current opioid misuse, severity of opioid dependence, pain severity, and pain disability among 445 adults with chronic pain (74.6% female, Mage [SD] ¼ 38.45 [11.06] years). Results. Results indicated that health literacy was significantly negatively associated with each of the criterion variables. Conclusions. These results suggest that health literacy may contribute to opioid misuse and pain experience among individuals with chronic pain. Interventions targeting health literacy among individuals with chronic illness may help to address the opioid public health crisis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)670-676
Number of pages7
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


  • Chronic Pain
  • Comorbidity
  • Disability
  • Health Literacy
  • Opioid Misuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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