New NIH study shows nearly 50 million U.S. adults experience chronic pain or severe pain

Nearly 50 million American adults have significant chronic pain or severe pain, according to a new study prepared by National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), which appears this month in The Journal of Pain,, published by the American Pain Society,

Based on data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the study estimates that within a previous three-month period, 25 million U.S. adults had daily chronic pain, and 23 million more reported severe pain. Those with serious pain need and use more health care services and suffer greater disability then persons with less severe pain.

The annual NHIS study is conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and surveys tens of thousands of Americans about their overall health and illnesses. The 2012 NHIS studied asked participants about the frequency and intensity of pain experienced in the last 3 months.

The findings also showed that half of individuals with the most severe pain still rated their overall health as good or better, and there were associations between pain severity and race, ethnicity, language preference, gender, and age. Women, older individuals, and non-Hispanics were more likely to report any pain, but Asians less likely. Also, the study showed the impact of gender on pain is influenced by race and ethnicity.

In an NIH news release, Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., M.P.H., lead epidemiologist for NCCIH and author of the analysis said: "This report begins to answer calls for better national data on the nature and extent of the pain problem. 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."

Publication of the NIH study follows the recent "Pain Research Agenda for the 21st Century," published in December in The Journal of Pain, in which The American Pain Society identifies promising but underfunded approaches to develop new treatments and to help make currently used pain medications safer and more effective. However, APS believes breakthrough new treatments will not become available unless more resources are devoted to pain research. Its Pain Research Agenda states: "The most direct path to achieving dramatic advances in pain treatment is through substantially increased investment in pain research and education, which would enable the pursuit of an aggressive translational pain-research agenda."


American Pain Society


  1. david becker david becker United States says:

    NIH and DHHS has been moving at a snails pace to address the problems in pain care. There is a great lack of leadership at DHHS when it comes to chronic pain- thats why the prevalence and costs are rising. When NIH did their National Pain Strategy- 5 years after Congress called for improvements in pain care- no price tag was attached to the plan nor any implementation strategies- needless to say NIH is in no rush to do what is right to address the problems in pain care.

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