The Painful Truth Campaign
18 million people live in chronic pain in the UK. Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions are one of the biggest causes.
The daily grind of living in pain stops you being able to work, to socialise, to care for your family, or even to move freely.
Despite affecting so many people and often in such a debilitating way, painful conditions like arthritis are often dismissed by society.
We know that popular culture like TV and film plays a powerful role in shaping our perceptions. Yet our research shows that in the most popular TV and films, chronic pain is either not represented at all or it’s badly portrayed.
This engrains misconceptions about who lives with chronic pain like arthritis and what it can do to your life. It also stops people who live with it from getting the help and support they need.
That’s not alright. And that is what our campaign, The Painful Truth, is here to change.
What we’re calling for
We’re calling on the TV and film industry to better represent the experiences of people in chronic pain in their story lines and productions, so people living with it feel seen, heard and better understood.
How we are helping
To support them to do this, we’ve created the first ever guide for the TV and film industry on how to better and more frequently represent chronic pain in their productions.
The Painful Truth: A Guide to Depicting Chronic Pain on Screen (PDF, 2.6 MB), was created with input from more than 4000 people with arthritis or chronic pain as well as professionals working in the TV and film industry.
It provides accessible information on the condition, practical suggestions for accurate storylines and characters, and powerful example stories of people living with the pain of arthritis, with the aim that scriptwriters and commissioners will incorporate more accurate and more frequent depictions within their programming.
Download our resources
This free resource is full of tips and advice for organisations in the TV and film industry.
What we found
The Painful Truth study analysed 100 hours of footage from the UK’s most-watched TV shows and films from 2019, including shows such as Killing Eve, Line of Duty, Sex Education and The Avengers. We found that the experiences and stories of people living in chronic pain were virtually invisible and untold.
Despite millions of people living with chronic pain, predominantly caused by arthritis and related conditions, just six minutes of the most watched TV and film of 2019 were dedicated to their experiences.
And in the rare instances it was included, it was mostly dismissed or misrepresented.
“Due to the unrealistic representation of pain caused by arthritis and other long-term illness on TV and in films, I have definitely felt less confident about speaking up and about whether people will believe me and understand.”
“Unless people die, you don’t see long term health stuff portrayed on film or TV at all. You get people with health conditions, but it never goes into the detail of pain – it’s all very face-value, there’s no depth."
Our study also found that TV and film’s dismissal of pain is preventing people with arthritis from opening up about their pain and seeking out help, advice and support.
That’s not alright. And that’s what our campaign, The Painful Truth, is here to change.
Help and advice
You don't need to face arthritis alone. You can find help, advice and support here:
Our friendly, expert advisors aim to bring all of the information and advice about arthritis into one place to provide tailored support for you.
Call us for free* today (Monday–Friday, 9am–8pm) on 0800 5200 520.
*Calls to our 0800 number are free when calling from within the UK but charges will apply when calling from abroad. For more information contact your network provider.