Study results indicate that 39 million or 19% of people in the US have persistent pain, and the incidence varies according to age and gender. The results appear in The Journal of Pain, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Pain Society.

A news release issued by the American Pain Society reports that the study was conducted by researchers at the Washington State University College of Nursing. Persistent pain was defined as frequent or constant pain lasting longer than 3 months. The research aimed to pinpoint groups at higher risk of persistent pain; identify body sites, chronic conditions, and disabilities linked to persistent pain; and assess the link between persistent pain and anxiety, depression and fatigue. The researchers also sought to describe the individual experience of persistent pain.

The study reportedly used data from the 2010 Quality of Life Supplement of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) to calculate the prevalence of persistent pain. According to the release, the analysis results suggest that approximately 19% of US adults reported persistent pain in 2010, and older adults were more likely to experience persistent pain than younger adults. Women also exhibited a slightly higher risk than men.

Additionally, the release notes that researchers say persistent pain correlated with other indices of health-related quality of life, such as anxiety, depression, and fatigue. The researchers explain that individuals with those conditions were far more likely to report persistent pain.

The release adds that in 2011, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported that 100 million Americans have chronic pain. The authors say the disparity between the estimated pain incidence in their study and what the IOM reported is attributable almost entirely to differences in operational definitions of persistent pain. In the 2010 NHIS, an estimated 60% of adults reported lower back pain in the past 3 months, and all of them would have been described in the IOM report as having chronic pain. However, only 42% of the NHIS study respondents with back pain described their pain as frequent or daily and lasting more than 3 months.

This difference is significant, from a public health perspective, the release says, as those with persistent pain have high rates of work disability, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. They also face a higher risk for long-term exposure to and dependency on pain medication.

In their conclusion, the authors point out that measuring pain persistence has policy implications because persistent pain is an indicator of an unmet medical need for pain management in the general population, as well as a risk factor for anxiety and depression.

According to the release, chronic pain impacts about 5% of children and adolescents. To this end, the release notes researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Research Institute, therefore, sought to better understand the economic costs to society that result from adolescent chronic pain.

For more information about adolescent chronic pain, read the study here.

[Source: American Pain Society]