Chronic pain significantly impacts not only an individual person’s daily life, but also the world around them. From the incidence of chronic pain globally to how much it costs each person who suffers, here are 28 of the most important chronic pain statistics.

Note: As chronic pain statistics are an ever-shifting landscape, most of the data below are from 2016 and 2017, with some from 2018 and one review of studies from 2019. These are the most current chronic pain statistics available for 2020.

Chronic pain statistics in the U.S.

Chronic pain statistics in the U.S. are increasingly harder to pin down. Underreporting and undertreatment of chronic pain is just as much of an epidemic as chronic pain itself.

Still, there are some startling chronic pain statistics that underscore the extent of the suffering in just one country.

1. A clear and accurate estimation of those in the U.S. who suffer from chronic pain is nearly impossible

The estimates of chronic pain in the U.S. range from 50 million adults to 100 million adults. This chronic pain statistic is one of the most hotly debated, as many who suffer do not come forward, and some claims of chronic pain are dismissed.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) places their estimate of the number of chronic pain sufferers between 11 and 40% of the adult population in the U.S., a figure that does not include adolescent chronic pain (which affects an estimated third of children).

The next five chronic pain statistics were retrieved from The National Institutes of Health (NIH) 2018 report “Prevalence and Profile of High Impact Chronic Pain.”

2. Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.

This statistic has been consistent for a decade, and a 2018 report confirms this statistic again.

Although chronic pain is not listed as a qualified “disabling” condition by the Social Security Administration, many conditions that cause it (e.g., lower back pain) are.

3. Almost a quarter of chronic pain sufferers have “high-impact” chronic pain

High-impact chronic pain is defined as pain that makes even the simplest of everyday activities nearly impossible. This may include dressing, walking, even sitting.

Eleven million people in the U.S. are estimated to suffer from this level of severe chronic pain.

4. Comorbid conditions increase a person’s risk of high-impact pain.

Comorbid conditions can increase a person’s risk of high-impact chronic pain, including:

  • Stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease

5. Chronic pain does not always mean limitations

Nearly 30% of people who suffer from chronic pain report very few, if any, impacts on their daily lives.

This does not mean that do not suffer daily pain, just that they have put the support in place to help them manage their pain.

6. Chronic pain is more prevalent among certain groups

African American, Native American, and people of Indian descent are more likely to suffer from chronic pain.

In addition, those who are widowed, divorced, or never married are more likely to suffer.

7. There are disparities in the treatment of pain among women and men

Women are more likely to be prescribed sedatives (as opposed to analgesics) for chronic pain than men are.

That is, when their pain is taken seriously. Women wait longer for pain medicine than men, and they are more likely to be misdiagnosed than men.

8. Lower back pain is still the most common form of chronic pain

As with chronic pain statistics worldwide, lower back pain is the most common form of chronic pain in the U.S.

9. Neck pain is the second most common type of chronic pain

An estimated 30-50% of adults in middle age will experience neck pain in any given year, with between two and 11% of those cases impacting daily activities.

Chronic pain statistics worldwide

Worldwide chronic pain statistics are grim. In undeveloped countries with limited access to medical treatment and facilities, it can be challenging to find accurate numbers for chronic pain.

Across the globe, chronic pain diagnosis and treatment illustrates an ever-widening gap between those with economic privilege and those who are struggling to make ends meet.

10. How many people suffer: 20% of the world’s population

When looking at chronic pain statistics worldwide, the most shocking number is the most basic one.

As of 2017, more than one and a half billion people suffer from chronic pain.

11. The U.S. reports chronic pain more than any other country

The majority of people reporting chronic pain live in the U.S., with just under 34% of people in the country reporting daily chronic pain.

The country that reports daily pain the least? The Czech Republic, with 8.5% people saying they experience physical pain often or very often.

12. Chronic back pain is the world’s leading cause of disability

Chronic back pain is the most common form of chronic pain, so it’s no surprise that it’s also the leading cause of worldwide disability.

13. Lower income countries have very little access to analgesic pain relief

Half of the world’s poorest people live in countries that receive less than 1% of analgesic medications for chronic pain (including opioids and morphine for palliative care).

This and the next two chronic pain statistics come from a 2019 article called “Solving the Global Crisis in Access Pain Relief: Lessons From Country Actions.”

14. Worldwide, 61 million people take days off for pain

Just 61 million people take six billion days off annually due to poorly managed chronic pain.

The economic impact of this is staggering but difficult to accurately calculate.

15. Access to pain relief is a protected right

Systematically denying pain relief for either chronic pain or for palliative care violates Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

16. Worldwide, an estimated 80% of people end their lives in pain

Patients with chronic and terminal pain due to cancer or other pain conditions reach the end of their lives in pain that ranges from moderate to severe.

17. Rates of chronic pain are similar in metropolitan areas all around the world

Whether a country is developing or fully industrialized does not seem to impact rates of chronic pain in its metropolitan areas.

The rates of chronic pain are similar in cities across the globe.

The economic burden of chronic pain

The economic burden of chronic pain is significant. As healthcare costs rise in the U.S. and the incidence of chronic pain increases, the cost of chronic pain rises with it.

The trouble is, many chronic pain patients are ill-equipped to deal with the economic burden of chronic pain. This inability to seek treatment can result in significant mental, emotional, and social challenges for patients and their families.

18. Chronic pain costs more than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer

In terms of lost productivity and direct medical costs, chronic pain costs an estimated $600 billion annually in the U.S.

This figure is more than the economic burden of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined.

19. Chronic pain results in lower wages for workers

One study found that workers with chronic pain had wages that were $190.6 billion to $226.3 billion lower than workers without chronic pain.

This is part of the overall economic burden of chronic pain, which the same study placed as high as $635 billion annually.

20. Depression due to chronic pain adds to the cost

Mental health issues have their own economic burden, but depression attributed to chronic pain may cost $94 million dollars annually for those who suffer in the U.S.

21. Avoiding chronic pain costs money, too

A 2017 working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that avoiding chronic pain costs between $56 and $145, per day. The range is attributed to household income and the level of pain.

22. Countries report and treat pain at varying rates

China and Japan have the lowest rate of reporting chronic pain, worldwide. When they do report, they are less likely to seek treatment for it.

The impact of chronic pain

The impact of chronic pain is not just economic.

Chronic pain can impact all areas of life, from the moment a person wakes up to whether or not they were able to get any sleep at all.

23. Those with less money and education are more likely to suffer from chronic pain

A University at Buffalo study found that poor people and those with less education are as much as 370% more likely to suffer from chronic pain.

24. Approximately 25% of people with chronic pain suffer from clinical insomnia

Disrupted sleep is a common symptom of chronic pain. In addition to insomnia, chronic pain sufferers have an increased risk of sleep-disordered breathing conditions like sleep apnea.

Patients with the most severe sleep apnea suffer from the highest levels of chronic pain.

25. Opioid use and chronic pain rates

Opioid use for chronic pain has risen steadily since it first flooded the market in the late 1990s.

Research has shown since then that opioids are largely ineffective as a treatment for chronic pain, but the damage has been done. The rate of opioid use disorders among chronic pain patients is between eight and 12%, with levels of misuse that reported at rates between 21 and 29%.

26. Economic impact of opioid use

The cost of treating opioid dependence ranges from just over $6,500 a year to around $14,000.

This number depends on whether methadone (the low end) or naltrexone (the high end) therapy is chosen.

27. Risk of suicide doubles with chronic pain

People with chronic pain are at twice the risk of suicide as those without it.

This includes controlling for other factors such as socioeconomics and other comorbid conditions. The presence of chronic pain alone is enough to increase a person’s risk.

28. Increased mortality risks of chronic pain

Although that there are several mitigating factors, it does appear that the mortality rate for people with chronic pain is slightly higher than for those without it.

A review of studies advocates for more research to make a direct link, but chronic pain does seem to contribute to elevated risk.

Understanding more about chronic pain statistics

Chronic pain is a condition that is as varied as the people who suffer from it, with far-reaching consequences that are economic, mental, physical, social, and emotional.

You can learn more about chronic pain in all its complexity on PainDoctor.com. You can also find a pain doctor in your area by clicking the button below or looking for one in your area by using the tips here: https://paindoctor.com/pain-management-doctors/.

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