Defining the Prevalence of Chronic Pain in the United States
Approximately 20 percent of U.S. adults had chronic pain and 8 percent had high-impact chronic pain—meaning pain that limited at least one major life activity—in 2016. These are the findings of a recent study that analyzed National Health Interview Survey data to establish the burden of pain in the United States and aid in the development and implementation of population-wide pain interventions. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health, Stanford Division of Pain Medicine, Kaiser Permanente, and Yale University analyzed pain data for the overall U.S. adult population and by various sociodemographic characteristics. The findings of the study were published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), a CDC publication.
Notable findings included the following:
- Higher prevalence of chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain were observed among women, older adults, previously but not currently employed adults, adults living in poverty, adults with public health insurance, and rural residents.
- Higher prevalence was associated with advancing age.
- The age-adjusted prevalence of chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain was significantly lower among adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to all other education levels.
- Although non-Hispanic white adults had a significantly higher age-adjusted prevalence of chronic pain compared to all other racial and ethnic subgroups, no significant differences in high-impact chronic pain prevalence by race and ethnicity were observed.
- Although veterans had a significantly higher age-adjusted prevalence of chronic pain compared to nonveterans, no significant difference was observed for the prevalence of high-impact chronic pain.
- For adults less than 65 years of age, the age-adjusted prevalence of chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain was higher among those with Medicaid and other public coverage or other insurance compared with adults with private insurance or those who were uninsured.
- Among adults 65 years of age and older, those with Medicare and Medicaid had a higher age-adjusted prevalence of chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain than adults with all other types of coverage
Chronic pain has been linked to restricted mobility, opioid dependency, anxiety, depression, and reduced quality of life, and it contributes to an estimated $560 billion annually in direct medical costs, lost productivity, and disability programs in the United States. The 2016 National Pain Strategy called for more precise prevalence estimates of chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain to reliably establish the burden of chronic pain and aid in the development and implementation of population-wide pain interventions. This study helps fulfill that objective, providing data to inform pain-focused policymakers, clinicians, and researchers.
- Dahlhamer J, Lucas J, Zelaya C, Nahin R, Mackey S, DeBar L, Kerns R, Von Korff M, Porter L, Helmick C. Prevalence of chronic pain and high impact chronic pain among adults – United States, 2016. MMWR. 2018;67:1001-1006.
Publication Date: September 14, 2018