Chronic pain more common in Americans than diabetes, depression: Study

New York: Reported cases of chronic pain in the US grew at a much faster rate than other persistent conditions from 2019 to 2020, according to a new analysis of survey data.

The findings, described in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, showed about 20 per cent of Americans — more than 75 million people — live with chronic pain.

On the contrary, only about seven people in 1,000 experience new cases of diabetes — 37 million people live with diabetes — year to year, and about 16 people in 1,000 have depression, and 46 people in 1,000 have hypertension.

Researchers including from the University of Washington, said their study highlights the need to take pain management more seriously as a public health problem.

“What we see in this study is that chronic pain, lasting longer than three months, happens to an awful lot of people,” said Dr. Gregory Terman, Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at the varsity’s School of Medicine.

In a survey of about 10,000 US adults, the researchers asked approximately about their pain level in 2019 and again in 2020. Sixty per cent of respondents who had chronic pain in 2019 were still experiencing it a year later. It also showed that 52 people per 1,000 respondents reported developing chronic pain each year.

“This unique survey allowed us to not only see the overall prevalence of chronic pain but also how frequently it develops,” Terman said.

“The fact that more than 50 out of 1,000 people developed chronic pain in 2019-20 should concern us, particularly when compared to the development of other chronic diseases such as depression, which develops in 16 out of 1,000 people.”

The researchers also identified factors that appeared to contribute to the development of chronic pain. For instance, people who said they experienced non-chronic pain in 2019 were more than twice as likely to report chronic pain in 2020, “suggesting the importance of treating pain before it becomes chronic,” he said.

The findings, Terman said, point to an acute need for new therapeutics.

“So far most of the medications that we have to treat chronic pain are very old, have limited demonstrated effectiveness and can have dangerous side effects,” he said.



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