If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that pain doesn’t stop for a global pandemic. When it comes to chronic pain statistics, 2021 gave us a lot to learn. Here are 40 chronic pain statistics to know in 2021, plus a sampling of chronic pain research from 2020.

COVID-19 and chronic pain statistics

COVID-19 posed extraordinary challenges across the globe. One issue that has jumped to the forefront is managing chronic conditions when everyone is advised to stay home. The medical community has responded by increasing their telehealth offerings and relaxing prescribing guidelines during this time.

But that’s just one of the many chronic pain statistics. 2021 is here, and COVID-19 isn’t going away just yet.

Here are five COVID-19 and chronic pain statistics we are tracking for 2021:

  1. Over 40% of adults in the U.S. have a co-morbid condition that makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19
  2. Because chronic pain affects the immune system, chronic pain patients may be especially at risk
  3. 59% of pain patients accessed telemedicine during the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, up from 11% the previous year
  4. Pain patients managing their own conditions remotely experience lower levels of pain, higher functioning, and better quality of life than patients who do not seek help (in person or via telehealth)
  5. Thousands of patients who survive COVID-19 will join a small but growing group of “long-haulers” with permanent damage to their lungs and other organs

Whether you are being treated for chronic pain during the time of COVID-19 or not, the single most effective thing you can do to keep yourself healthy is to wear a facemask.

Further, we recommend reading this post on the effects of chronic pain (or any chronic condition) on your immune system. Wearing a mask is a great first step, but this post breaks down further steps you can take to protect your health.

Chronic pain demographics

Who suffers from chronic pain? Pain research studies report consistent data that doesn’t move much over the years, but it’s getting complicated. Many groups underreport pain, and others that do report find their complaints falling on deaf ears. Here’s the start of what we know.

  1. Chronic pain statistics worldwide show that adults with less than a high school education make up 28% of pain sufferers
  2. Almost 24% of non-Hispanic white people report chronic pain
  3. Just over 19% of Black people suffer from chronic pain, but this is complicated by a variety of factors (see numbers 4–7)
  4. Almost 50% of first- and second-year medical trainees believe that Black people don’t feel pain as much as their white counterparts
  5. Black people are 22% less likely to be adequately treated for their chronic pain
  6. Black people are also 40% less likely to receive medications for their pain and 34% less likely to be prescribed opioids
  7. Racial barriers to access diagnosis and care for pain conditions are increasing
  8. 18% of people over 60 in the U.S. are being treated with pain medication
  9. Women are more likely than men to have both chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain
  10. If you live in the country, your chance of suffering from chronic pain increases
  11. Depression and anxiety affect those in pain three times as much as those who are not in pain
  12. People with chronic pain are at twice the risk of suicide

The demographics of chronic pain suggest that discrimination in both diagnosis and access to treatment continue to be an issue as we move into 2021.

Chronic pain by type

When it comes to the different types of chronic pain, one of the biggest changes we are seeing in the past few years is the rise of “nerd neck.”

Take a look at six stats on the other most common forms of chronic pain:

  1. Just over 30% of office workers suffer from chronic neck pain that may be related to excessive smartphone use
  2. Back pain is the most common type of chronic pain, with 80% of adults in the U.S. reporting this condition at some point in their lives
  3. Head pain (including migraine) takes the number two spot in terms of prevalence
  4. Migraine headache is the third most common illness in the world
  5. Almost two billion people suffer from chronic headache, with tension headaches being the most common
  6. Arthritis affects an estimated 55 million adults in the U.S. (and 350 million globally)

Chronic pain incidence globally and in the U.S.

Whether it’s an increase in stress across the world or increasing awareness, chronic pain statistics in 2021 point towards more chronic pain in our future. Over the past decade, more and more people are seeking treatment for chronic pain that occurs after an acute incident.

In addition, as comorbid and contributing factors such as diabetes and heart disease increase, the rate of chronic pain also increases.

Here are eight chronic pain statistics for 2021 that are tracking this trend:

  1. As of 2018, 100 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain
  2. 18% of those patients have what is called “high-impact” pain
  3. 84% of high-impact pain patients are unable to work outside of the home
  4. Worldwide, 5 billion people (just under 21%) experience chronic pain
  5. Morbidity is higher across the globe for people in chronic pain
  6. Chronic pain in adults in the U.S. increased by just over 8% from 1997 to 2014
  7. Opioid prescriptions during that same time quadrupled
  8. There is a substantial income gap in the global treatment of chronic pain, with higher incomes receiving a disproportionate amount of care

It’s hard to predict how COVID-19 will affect the incidence of chronic pain in 2021, but it’s safe to guess that it won’t result in lower numbers any time soon.

Financial impact of pain

It often gets forgotten, but chronic pain is expensive. The U.S. spends $3.5 trillion dollars per year on health care, with 90% of that going to chronic conditions including chronic pain.

Here are nine chronic pain statistics in 2021 that show how this breaks down.

  1. The annual price tag of chronic pain is between $560 and $653 billion dollars
  2. Indirect costs (disability compensation and lost productivity) add another $261–300 billion annually
  3. These estimates do not include other costs such as legal fees, childcare, and other indirect costs when receiving treatment for chronic pain
  4. If you were to divide the costs up equally, chronic pain would cost every person currently alive in the U.S. $2,000 annually
  5. Chronic pain costs more than heart disease ($309 billion), cancer ($243 billion), and diabetes ($188 billion).
  6. Neck and back pain eat up most of those dollars, costing an estimated $380 billion in 2016
  7. Every year, 36 million people in the U.S. miss work due to chronic pain
  8. Annual healthcare costs are $4,000 higher for people in pain
  9. Prescription opioids cost between $800 and $860 out of pocket<