Chronic pain is now considered a major public health problem with high costs for society and the individual patient. To improve the prevention and treatment of chronic pain, researchers have conducted many epidemiologic studies to assess for chronic pain. The aims of these studies are to estimate the prevalence of chronic pain in the adult population, and to assess the overall burden of chronic pain.
In a simple random sample of 25,000 people living in Denmark, researchers found that 26.8% of these people lived with chronic pain, and 4.5% of them were taking opioids to relieve the pain. This high prevalence of opioid consumption tends to reflect the general adult population of most developed regions. In the study, researchers found a higher prevalence of chronic pain among people with chronic cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, as well as people with a non-Western background.
According to another study, chronic pain affects 10% of the world’s population, which is around 60 million people. Estimates of chronic pain prevalence have been close to 23% in some regions and countries. In addition, 1 in 10 people will develop chronic pain each year globally, according to statistics. In 2004, the International Pain Society found that failure to treat pain is viewed worldwide as poor medicine, withholding a fundamental human right, and unethical practice.
Risk factors for persistent, chronic pain and management options are unequally distributed between high-, medium-, and low-income countries, with the most disadvantaged bearing more burden of persistent pain and less likely to receive effective treatment. Pain management, however, is a basic human right, and many countries ethically mandate pain treatment as part of the core obligation under right to healthcare.
For our healthcare system, chronic pain is an overwhelming public health issue, with many costs. The Institute of Medicine reports that it costs our healthcare system around $600 million every year to treat and manage chronic pain. Despite the advances in drug therapy for pain, treatment of chronic pain is still considered unsatisfactory. Many people who suffer with chronic pain have tried numerous medical approaches, but not found adequate relief, or have suffered problematic side effects and adverse situations.
The prevalence of chronic pain has a tremendous impact on the business world. The Institute of Medicine indicated that the annual value of lost productivity ranged from $295 billion to $335 billion. This value of lost productivity is based on three estimate factors: Hours of work lost, days of worked missed, and lower wages. These include:
- Hours of work lost – $95 to $96.5 billion
- Days of work missed – $11.5 to $12.7 billion
- Lower wages – $190.5 to $226 billion
Studies show that most of the pain-related lost productive time happens when employees are at work, and it is in the form of decreased or reduced performance. The cost of chronic pain also is an enormous burden on society, particularly to employers and business owners.
The impact of chronic pain on business and society is represented by the following statistics:
- More than half of Americans have some type of recurrent or chronic pain.
- Around 4 in 10 Americans report that pain interferes with activities, sleep, mood, ability to work, and quality of life.
- Leading causes of persistent, chronic pain are headaches, back pain, and neck pain.
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Kurita GP, Siogren P, Juel K, et al. (2012). The burden of chronic pain: a cross-sectional survey focusing on diseases, immigration, and opioid use. Pain, 153(12), 2332-2338.