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The Burden of Chronic Pain in US Adults (2019-2020)

Analysis of National Health Interview Survey data shows that the incidence of chronic pain in the USA is high compared with other chronic diseases.

A US population based cohort analysis using the 2019-2020 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Longitudinal Cohort data looked at incidence rates of chronic pain in adults, specifically looking at rates of chronic pain (pain “most days” or “every day”) and high-impact chronic pain (HICP: chronic pain that limits life or work activities on most days or every day).

The sample included 10 415 adults (52% female, 54% 18 to 49 years, 73% White), analyzed between January 2022 to March 2023.

Among those adults who were pain-free 2019, incidence rates of new chronic pain and HICP was 52.4 and 12.0 cases per 1000 PY, respectively, in 2020. The rates of persistent chronic pain and persistent HICP in 2020 were 462.0 and 361.2 cases per 1000 PY, respectively.

Older participants had higher rates of chronic pain than younger participants, and those without a college degree had higher rates of chronic pain than those with a college degree. No differences in the rates of chronic pain were seen between male and female participants. 

Overall, 61% of adults with chronic pain in 2019 continued to have chronic pain in 2020. While 15% of those with nonchronic pain in 2019, developed chronic pain 1 year later, only 6.3% of pain free persons in 2019 developed incident chronic pain. Nearly 10% of chronic pain adults noted pain alleviation over time. 

The incidence of chronic pain (52.4 cases per 1000 PY) was high compared with other chronic diseases, including diabetes (7.1 cases per 1000 PY), depression (15.9 cases per 1000 PY), and hypertension (45.3 cases per 1000 PY).

There is a high disease burden of chronic pain in the US adult population and the need for early management of pain before it becomes chronic.


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The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject