Most US adults experience pain, be it mild or severe, brief or long-lasting, a new study shows.
The analysis, of data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), shows that 25.3 million adults (11.2%) have daily pain, and 14.4 million (6.4%) classified their pain at the most severe level.
“This report begins to answer calls for better national data on the nature and extent of the pain problem,” said Richard Nahin, PhD, MPH, lead epidemiologist for the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and author of the analysis. “The experience of pain is subjective. It’s not surprising then that the data show varied responses to pain even in those with similar levels of pain. Continuing analyses of these data may help identify subpopulations that would benefit from additional pain treatment options.”
“The number of people who suffer from severe and lasting pain is striking,” Josephine P. Briggs, MD, director of the NCCIH, which funded the study, said in a press release.
“This analysis adds valuable new scope to our understanding of pain and could inform the National Pain Strategy in the areas of population research and disparities,” Dr Briggs added. “It may help shape future research, development, and targeting of effective pain interventions, including complementary health approaches.”
The analysis is published in the August issue of The Journal of Pain.
Pain may not be adequately controlled with prescription drugs or other conventional treatments, and so many Americans turn to complementary health approaches, such as yoga and massage. A research priority of the NCCIH is to determine the effectiveness of complementary approaches for treating pain and other symptoms, the release notes.
The 2012 NHIS, an annual study in which tens of thousands of Americans are interviewed about their health, looked at use of complementary and integrative health approaches. In this survey, participants were asked about the frequency and intensity of pain experienced in the prior 3 months.
The survey results are based on combined data from 8781 US adults who completed the Functioning and Disability Supplement, a subsection of the larger NHIS.
From information they gathered, researchers placed pain into four categories based on pain persistence and bothersomeness, from the least (1) to most severe (4).
They found that:
- An estimated 126 million adults (55.7%) reported some type of pain in the 3 months before the survey.
- An estimated 23.4 million adults (10.3%) experience a lot of pain.
- 4 million adults (11.3%) experience category 3 pain.
- 4 million adults (6.4%) experience category 4 pain.
- Adults with category 3 or 4 pain were more likely to have worse health status, use more healthcare, and experience more disability than those with less severe pain. However, approximately half of those with the most severe pain still rated their overall health as good or better.
The study also showed that women, older persons, and non-Hispanics were more likely to report pain while Asians were less likely. Minorities who chose not to be interviewed in English were markedly less likely to report pain. The effect of sex on pain varies by race and ethnicity.