34 Chronic Pain Statistics & Facts for a More Comfortable 2021

Chronic Pain Statistics

Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability globally, affecting billions of people and impeding their daily activities, as well as impacting the ability to work and socialize. To better understand the devastating and far-reaching consequences of this disabling condition, we need to take a closer look at the most relevant chronic pain statistics and facts. 

Just how prevalent is chronic pain? Who is most affected? What is the economic burden of the increasing number of chronic pain sufferers? 

Keep on reading to find out the answers and discover more shocking pain stats and facts.

A Quick Look at the Most Important 2021 Chronic Pain Stats & Facts

  • Chronic pain is one of the ten most prevalent diseases in the world.
  • As many as 50% of cancer patients experience pain.
  • Chronic pain sufferers statistics show that women are more likely to experience pain than men.
  • Strikingly, 20.4% of US adults have chronic pain.
  • An alarming 78% of ER visits in the US are related to pain complaints.
  • COVID-19 has had a serious impact on chronic pain sufferers.
  • In Europe, as many as 20% of the population suffer from chronic pain.
  • Back pain represents 27% of all types of pain.
  • Almost one in ten suicide victims in the US are people who were living with chronic pain.
  • One-third of people living with chronic pain don't receive any kind of treatment.

How Common Is Chronic Pain

This section will take a closer look at chronic pain demographics, medical history, and the overall prevalence of the condition.

1. Chronic pain is one of the ten most prevalent diseases. 

(NCBI) (PubMed)

It’s estimated that around 20% of the global population suffers from pain, while 10% new chronic pain patients are diagnosed every year. Following this, researchers point to the necessity of introducing relevant social policies, as well as building up a comprehensive approach to treatment.

2. In the US alone, 80% of surgery patients experience postoperative pain, statistics on chronic pain indicate. 

(NCBI)

88% of these patients said they experienced moderate, severe, or extreme pain following surgery, while 75% described the pain during the immediate postoperative period as moderate to extreme.

3. As many as 50% of cancer patients experience pain. 

(IASP)

The rate of chronic pain among cancer patients rises to 75% among those with advanced malignancies. Pain seems to persist even after treatment, with 33% of cancer survivors experiencing pain.

4. The prevalence of chronic pain in older adults ranges from 20% to 50%.

(EJGG) (IASP)

The exact number depends on the study population and the definition of pain (i.e., severity and length). Although the study did not find a link between dependence in daily living activities and chronic pain, medical alert systems could help seniors lead independent lives despite chronic pain.

5. Chronic pain, however, is not limited to the aging population alone.

(NCBI)

A review of chronic pain epidemiology in children and adolescents reveals that 20.6% of adolescents are affected by chronic pain in at least two sites, while up to 30% of those between the ages of 18 and 39 report feeling persistent pain.

6. Chronic pain sufferers statistics show that women are more likely to experience pain than men.

(Cleveland Clinic)

All four types of chronic pain—lower back pain, migraines, facial pain, and neck pain — are more common in women. For instance, 18% of women suffer from migraine attacks compared to just 7% of men.

Stats and Facts on Chronic Pain in the US 

How widespread is chronic pain in America? Are there variations according to age, income, and race? How much is the annual cost of chronic pain?

Check out the following section for more information.

7. Strikingly, 20.4% of US adults have chronic pain.

(CDC)

On top of that, 7.4% of American adults reported feeling high-impact chronic pain, i.e., pain that prevents them from working or daily activities. According to the data at our disposal, 45–64 year-olds and those aged 65 and over are the most affected age groups.

8. Women and seniors are more likely to have chronic pain, chronic pain statistics from the CDC disclose. 

(CDC)

As many as 21.7% of women in the US suffer from chronic pain, and 8.5% of them tackle HICP as opposed to 19.0% and 6.3% of men, respectively. Chronic pain rates also increase with age — 25.8% of people aged 45 to 64 had chronic pain (as opposed to 14.6% of 30–44 year-olds and 8.5% of 18–29 year-olds).

9. School drop-outs were 370% more likely to have chronic pain. 

(Science Daily) (PubMed)

Chronic pain is also associated with homelessness, income lower than $25,000, and no access to primary care facilities — clearly showing a close relationship between chronic pain and poverty.

10. Chronic pain prevalence also varies by race, ethnicity, and place of residence. 

(CDC)

23.6% of non-Hispanic white adults are more likely to have chronic pain, and 8.4% are more likely to experience HICP when compared to other races and ethnicities. Residents of rural areas are also more at risk of chronic pain than dwellers of large metropolitan cities (28.1% vs. 16.4%).

11. An alarming 78% of ER visits in the US are related to pain complaints. 

(NCBI)

Pain is the most common reason for medical consultation. And yet, research into an extensive network of emergency services continues to highlight the ineffective treatment of intense or persistent pain.

12. Pain costs the US between $560 and $630 billion every year, chronic pain facts and figures reveal.

(NCBI)

The cost of healthcare alone is estimated to be around $261 to $300 billion. Combined with the value of lost productivity, the total financial cost goes up to almost $635 billion. Moreover, the cost of pain is 30% higher than the combined cost of diabetes and cancer.

13. Chronic pain statistics reveal that 50% to 80% of the US chronic pain sufferers experience sleep disruptions. 

(Psychiatric Times)

The most common sleep disorders associated with chronic pain are insomnia (72%), restless leg syndrome (32%), and obstructive sleep apnea (32%). Keep in mind that sleep apnea is a potentially serious disorder that might require the usage of a special CPAP machine.

14. COVID-19 has had a serious impact on chronic pain sufferers.

(Practical Pain Management)

Based on an April 2020 survey on people with chronic pain, the majority of respondents (63.8%) stated they were experiencing increased pain levels. 77.4% said they were facing barriers to treatment, while 69.7% believed their condition put them at higher risk for severe complications from the coronavirus.

Statistics on Chronic Pain in Europe

Like the US, Europe is also facing a serious and complex issue when it comes to chronic pain and its social and economic burden.

15. As many as 20% of people in Europe suffer from chronic pain. 

(Science Direct)

According to a study, chronic pain is much commoner in people with relative deprivation, older people, and women. What’s more, 27% of those affected by chronic pain feel isolated and lonely, while 29% say they’re worried about losing their jobs.

16. Back pain is responsible for 70% reports of severe pain and 65% of reports of moderate pain.

(European Pain Federation)

A European survey on the prevalence of chronic pain discovered that back pain is the most common cause of pain, followed by joint and neck pain. While selecting a proper mattress for back pain could help relieve the symptoms, it’s still highly recommended that you consult a health professional about more effective treatment options.

17. Chronic pain prevalence rates were the highest in Norway (30%).

(Pain Alliance Europe)

Chronic pain rates were also high in Poland (27%) and Italy (26%). On the other hand, Spain was positioned at the lower end of the spectrum, with a 12% prevalence rate. Ireland and the UK also boast the lowest chronic pain prevalence rates — 13% each.

18. Around 13% to 50% of people in the UK have chronic pain, chronic pain statistics show. 

(NCBI)

Almost 14.3% of those affected are said to experience moderate to severe chronic pain. Interestingly, it was pointed out that women are more likely to seek treatment. Now, when it comes to treatment, researchers emphasized yet again the importance of a much broader understanding of the issue.

19. A whopping 500 million working hours are lost in Europe due to chronic pain, costing €300 billion.

(European Pain Federation)

Chronic pain resulted in more than 500 million hours of lost work in Europe. It’s estimated that pain costs Europe more than €300 billion (or 1.5%–3% of the GDP), European pain statistics indicate.

Global Chronic Pain Statistics

Now that we’ve seen the situation in the US and Europe let’s see how the rest of the world fares.

20. One in four people in Canada experience chronic pain, costing the country from  $38.3 to $40.4 billion.

(Newswire)

Canada has even established a special Pain Task Force to help experts better understand the needs of chronic pain sufferers. What’s more, Canada is going to fund three projects aimed at providing access to care and support to those living with chronic pain.

21. 3.37 million people in Australia are living with pain, chronic pain statistics worldwide from 2020 show. 

(Painaustralia)

53.8% of these were women as opposed to 46.2% of men. Chronic pain was even more prevalent among older adults, with 10.3 million senior Australians living with chronic pain. Furthermore, the total financial cost of chronic pain in Australia was estimated to stand at $144.10 billion in 2020.

22. China and Japan have the lowest pain prevalence, as seen from chronic pain statistics worldwide in 2019.

(Statista)

The survey involved about 250,000 respondents of the age of 18 and over. As of 2019, both Asian powerhouses boasted the lowest rates of pain prevalence. In comparison, 12% of the Russian population and 15% of the Brazilian population were diagnosed with a pain condition.

Chronic Back Pain Statistics

Back pain is the most common type of chronic pain experienced by sufferers, resulting in billions of dollars in healthcare and indirect costs every year. The latter includes doctor’s bills, days of lost productivity, and alternative treatment, such as the purchase of a mattress for back pain or a CBD cream for joint pain. Browse through these statistics on back pain to get a better idea of the severity of this condition.

23. Back pain represents 27% of all types of pain. 

(The Good Body)

Chronic pain facts state that the most frequent issues causing pain are lower back pain, severe headache or migraine (15%), neck pain (15%), and facial pain (4%). Interestingly, women are twice as likely to suffer from facial pain, migraines, and headaches than men.

24. Experts estimate that 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in their lives.

(ACA) (NINDS)

What’s more, 20% of people with acute lower back pain develop a chronic condition. In light of these acute pain statistics, it’s not surprising that back pain is the second most common reason for doctor appointments. By and large, upper respiratory infections are still the leading cause of visits to the doctor’s office..

25. Back pain is the leading reason for sick leave and early retirement in Europe.

(The Guardian)

According to lower back pain statistics, the UK has seen a 12% increase in disability due to this health condition. The costs associated with this chronic pain condition are staggering — £12.3 billion a year, including £1.6 billion spent on treatment.

26. Older adults are more likely to develop chronic lower back pain, chronic low back pain statistics indicate.

(NCBI) (Systematic Reviews)

Based on a study carried out in Israel, the prevalence rate of chronic lower back pain was 58% among seniors aged 77. In the US, on the other hand, around 6 million older adults suffer from disabling chronic LBP, whereas 17 million have at least one episode of LBP a year.

27. John F. Kennedy went through four unsuccessful surgeries for his chronic back pain. 

(The JNS)

JFK began to suffer chronic back pain at the age of 21. He had up to four operations throughout his life, each time with worse results, requiring treatment with high doses of morphine to manage the pain.

Chronic Pain and Suicide Statistics

Chronic pain and mental health disorders are closely linked. Severe to extreme and even moderate chronic pain can lead to depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. People who suffer from mental health issues are also more likely to experience persistent pain.

28. Almost one in ten suicide victims in the US are people who were living with chronic pain. 

(US Pain Foundation) (OA Text)

Truly staggering, the chronic pain suicide rate shows that chronic pain sufferers are twice as likely to consider suicide compared to people who are living a pain-free life. That said, it has also been established that there is no clear dose-dependent relationship between suicidality and pain intensity.

29. 23% of Canadians with chronic pain believe life isn’t worth living, chronic pain statistics reveal. 

(SaltWire)

Of 2,100 respondents, 83% said that pain stopped them from carrying out everyday activities, while more than half (57%) stated that their pain contributed to depression and anxiety. Such contribution comes as no surprise, considering that depression and chronic pain processing share some of the neural networks.

30. 22.6% of pain-related suicide deaths were caused by back pain. 

(The Good Body)

From all chronic pain disorders, back pain is the most common condition to lead to suicide, studies show. Second is cancer pain (12%), followed by arthritis (7.9%), migraine (5.2%), and fibromyalgia (5.1%).

31. Between 25% and 50% of patients that report pain are also depressed. 

(WebMD)

As mentioned above, there is a strong connection between pain, particularly back pain and depression. On the one hand, 65% of people suffering from depression also experience pain. However, according to further chronic pain and depression statistics, people whose daily activities and independence are limited by chronic pain are more likely to be depressed.

Chronic Pain Statistics and Treatment

Although the number of surgical procedures has increased in recent years, chronic pain patients continue to receive inadequate care, treatment, and education regarding their condition. With the coronavirus and lockdown further limiting their access to healthcare, chronic pain statistics for 2021 are not likely to show an improvement in this area.

32. One-third of people living with chronic pain don’t receive any kind of treatment. 

(PubMed)

Of those being treated, two-thirds use non-medication alternatives, while nearly half take non-prescription meditation. Among these, NSAIDs have the highest share of usage (55%), followed by paracetamol (43%) and weak opioids (13%).

33. There is only one board-certified chronic pain specialist for every 10,000 chronic pain patients

(Monarch Wellness)

Not only are pain-related diseases not addressed by relevant professionals, but existing treatments only seem to reduce pain by 30%, pain management statistics reveal. Then, it isn’t as surprising that most chronic pain sufferers flock to alternative methods of healing.

34. Still, the market for chronic pain treatment is expected to generate $151.7 billion by 2030.

(GlobeNewswire)

Following the projections in chronic pain stats, the global market for chronic pain medication and treatment is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 6.5% from 2020 to 2030, primarily fueled by the rising population of older adults across the world.

The Bottom Line

Estimates show that 1.5 billion people in the world experience chronic pain.

However, despite the ubiquity of this condition, chronic pain remains one of the least addressed medical issues today. Hopefully, these chronic pain statistics will help raise awareness and make people realize how much more attention and resources need to be devoted to tackling this serious condition.

FAQs

Which population has the highest prevalence of chronic pain?

In the US, non-Hispanic white adults are the most likely to experience both chronic and high-impact chronic pain. They are followed by non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanic adults. 

Non-Hispanic Asian adults are the least likely to suffer from chronic pain.

How many people struggle with chronic pain?

It’s believed that around one in five people worldwide suffers from chronic pain. CP affects people of all ages, gender, races, and socioeconomic background, although older adults are more likely to be affected by this condition than others.  

What percentage of adults have chronic pain?

Chronic pain is the highest among seniors over 65 (30.8%), non-Hispanic white adults (23.6%), and women (21.7%), chronic pain statistics reveal.

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