Government and Regulations

Who’s in Pain in America? Pretty Much Everyone

After a new analysis of data and further research, results show millions in America are experiencing frequent severe pain.


Most American adults have experienced pain, but a “striking number” experience severe and lasting pain, according to a new analysis of data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), funded by the NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). The survey estimated that 126 million adults experienced some pain in the previous 3 months; 25 million had pain every day.

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The nearly 40 million respondents with the most severe pain were likely to have a worse health status, use more health care, and experience greater disability than those with less severe pain. However, about half of respondents with the most severe pain still rated their overall health as good or better.

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Women, older adults, and non-Hispanics were more likely to report pain; Asians were less likely. Minorities who did not choose to be interviewed in English were markedly less likely to report pain, the researchers found. The impact of gender on pain varied by race and ethnicity.

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The NHIS is an annual study of health- and illness-related experiences. A subset of 8,781 NHIS respondents answered questions about the frequency and intensity of pain in the prior 3 months. The data analysis, published in The Journal of Pain, adds a “valuable new scope” to the understanding of pain, said Josephine P. Briggs, MD, director of NCCIH. The added knowledge could help shape future research and treatment, including complementary health approaches.

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