More than a quarter of the entire population in the United States experiences some form of pain every day. Americans spent between $2 and $6 billion on non prescription painkillers in 2007, while the cost of productivity loss attributable to pain-related conditions is estimated at $60 billion a year.
"Although much is known about the pain experienced by those with chronic illnesses, until now relatively little was known about pain in the entire U.S. population," says Arthur A. Stone, Ph.D., a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University.
"Our assessment approach allowed us to get accurate information about pain at several carefully selected times from the previous day," explains Dr. Stone, which enabled the researchers to address several new questions about pain, daily activities, and respondents’ personal characteristics.
Ten thousand people were contacted via random-digit dialing, and a total of 3,982 people were actually interviewed. To make the study results representative of the U.S. population, the data were adjusted with sample weights developed by the Gallup Organization. 29% of men and 27% of women said they experienced pain at sampled times.
The researchers also found a correlation between pain and lower income and less education: "Those with lower income or less education spent a higher proportion of time in pain and reported higher average pain than did those with higher income or more education," they wrote.
Additionally, the report found that the average pain rating increased with age, although it reached a plateau between ages of about 45 years and 75 years, with little difference between men and women.
According to Dr. Stone, "The study results expand our understanding of pain in the United States and supplement more traditional assessment approaches with a very detailed perspective on the pain people experience on a daily basis. This suggests new avenues of research that may ultimately lead to improved treatment of pain."
Study authors: Arthur A. Stone, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University, and Alan Krueger, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Economics and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University
Source: The Lancet, May 3, 2008