In a new study from the University at Buffalo, researchers found Americans are in chronic pain, and what has been a long-standing and under-acknowledged problem is getting substantially worse.
The findings suggest blanket increases across multiple measures, with the pain rising in every adult age group, in every demographic group, and at every site of pain for which data exists.
People today are experiencing more pain than individuals of the same age in earlier decades. In fact, each subsequent birth group is in greater pain than the one that came before it.
While some other recent research has examined trends in chronic pain, those earlier studies focused on narrower age groups, usually those over age 50.
The current paper examines a more comprehensive range of adults, aged 25-84.
In addition, it relies on the 2002-20018 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)—a nationally representative data set with more than 441,000 participants—to show how pain increased substantially based on annual data over 16 years.
In the United States, chronic pain affects more people and has a greater economic cost than heart disease, diabetes and cancer combined.
In addition to revealing trends, the paper also provides a glimpse of what might be causing the increase.
In the oldest age group (65-84), physical health conditions such as body mass index (BMI), hypertension, diabetes and kidney conditions correlate most with increases in pain.
While BMI again surfaces as a correlate in young and middle-aged people, distress and alcohol use also have strong associations with chronic pain trends in these age groups.
The findings inspire questions about why chronic pain hasn’t previously been a larger part of the national dialogue on the country’s biggest health challenges.
What’s clear is that chronic pain is having a profoundly detrimental effect on the U.S. population and demands closer monitoring by public health officials.
The team says pain is a leading cause of disability and there is evidence that pain has an impact on life expectancy. So the problem is one not only affecting the quality of life, but potentially even quantity of life.
If you care about chronic pain, please read studies about common painkiller may harm your immune system, damage heart and kidneys and findings of these pain relievers may harm your body weight and sleep.
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The study is published in Demography. One author of the study is Hanna Grol-Prokopczyk.