Health economists from Johns Hopkins University writing in The Journal of Pain (www.jpain.org) reported the annual cost of chronic pain is as high as $635 billion a year, which is more than the yearly costs for cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Previous studies have not shown a comprehensive analysis of the impact on health care and labor markets associated with people with chronic pain. The Johns Hopkins researchers estimated the annual economic costs of chronic pain in the U.S. by assessing incremental costs of health care due to pain and the indirect costs of pain from lower productivity. They compared the costs of health care for persons with chronic pain with those who do not report chronic pain.
Data from the 2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey was used to gauge the economic burden of pain in the United States. The sample included 20,214 individuals 18 and older to represent 210.7 million U.S. adults.
The authors defined persons with pain as those who have pain that limits their ability to work, are diagnosed with joint pain or arthritis, or have a disability that limits capacity for work. To measure indirect costs, they used a model to predict health care costs if someone has any type of pain and subtracted predicted health care costs of persons who do not have pain. The impact of incremental costs of selected pain conditions were calculated for various payers of health care services.