NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

High Rates of Persistent Chronic Pain Found Among U.S. Adults

Black man grimacing, holding his neck
Among people who have chronic pain, almost two-thirds still suffer from it a year later.

Photo:  lunopark/Shutterstock

A study from NIH shows that new cases of chronic pain occur more often among U.S. adults than new cases of several other common conditions, including diabetes, depression and high blood pressure. Among people who have chronic pain, almost two-thirds still suffer from it a year later. 

These findings come from a new analysis of National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data by investigators from NCCIH, Seattle Children’s Research Institute and University of Washington, Seattle, and are published in JAMA Network Open.

“Understanding incidence, beyond overall prevalence, is critical to understanding how chronic pain manifests and evolves over time,” said Dr. Richard Nahin, lead author and lead epidemiologist at NCCIH. “These data on pain progression stress the need for increased use of multimodal, multidisciplinary interventions able to change the course of pain and improve outcomes for people.”

Overall, the study found that the rate of chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain (HICP) among adults is approximately 21% and 8%, respectively. 

Chronic pain is pain that is experienced on most days or every day in the past three months; and HICP is pain that limits life or work activities on most days or every day during the past three months. The links between the widespread burden of chronic pain and the country’s opioid epidemic underscore the urgency to understand and address the issue of pain.

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The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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