Chronic Pain Statistics

35 Alarming Chronic Pain Statistics: America vs. Europe

by Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, MD

Chronic pain extends beyond the normal course of an acute illness and beyond an injury’s expected healing time. This pain can last indefinitely. Although all types of pain are equally important, this compilation of chronic pain statistics, as the title implies, focuses on chronic pain, which is one of the most prevalent and least addressed medical problems of this century.

The stats our team at MedAlertHelp collected and presented in this article discuss the costs associated with chronic pain and the right sufferers have to enjoy a reasonable quality of life. It’s imperative that the extent of the problem be recognized and addressed to a broader degree.

Breaking the data down to statistics of chronic pain in America, Europe, and a few other parts of the world, we will see the clear negative impact of chronic pain. In doing so, this article will highlight the scale of the problem, including the relative economic costs to society. It will also identify the serious reduction in quality of life that the millions of people suffering from chronic pain experience on a daily basis.

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

  • 20.5% of people in the world suffer from chronic pain.
  • 50 million Americans live with chronic pain.
  • Back pain incidences spike in elderly people above 60–65 years.
  • Between $560 and $630 billion is lost annually to chronic pain in America.
  • 500 million working days are lost in Europe due to chronic pain, which costs €300 billion.
  • Chronic pain is the leading cause of long-term disability in the US.
  • £12.3 billion is spent annually in the UK in back pain treatment.  
  • Lower back pain affects 80% of Americans.
  • JFK went through four unsuccessful surgeries for his chronic back pain.
  • 34.6% of chronic pain patients in Canada consider suicide.

How Common Is Chronic Pain?

Chronic Pain Statistics

1. 20.5% of people in the world suffer from chronic pain.  

(The Good Body)

How many people in the world have chronic pain? Well, according to this estimate, more than 1.5 billion humans among the over 7 billion on earth suffer from one form of chronic pain or another.

2. 50% of cancer patients experience pain.

(IASP)

This includes all the stages of cancer. In addition, the percentage rises to 75% in patients with advanced malignancies. In fact, every year in England and Wales, over 100,000 people experience pain at their time of death.

3. 20% of people in Europe suffer from chronic pain.

(Science Direct)

This means 80 million Europeans suffer from moderate to severe chronic pain. On top of that, almost 9% of the adult population suffers daily pain.

4. 30%–50% of middle-aged people have neck pain episodes every year.

(WWDPI)

According to the neck pain statistics from 2018 provided by to the Work Wellness and Disability Prevention Institute, up to 5 middle-aged persons out of 10 have at least one neck pain disorder each year. Around 1.7%–11.5% have reported that their daily activities were disrupted by their chronic pain condition.  

5. Patients experience persistent pain after routine surgery up to 50% of the time.

(Tand F Online)

According to acute pain statistics from 2018, persistent postoperative pain is a serious problem that isn’t generally attended to. After routine surgery, acute postoperative pain is followed by persistent pain in 10%–50% of cases. This pain is intense in 2%–10% of the cases.

6. 9.8% of patients in pain clinics suffer from neuropathic pain.

(NCBI)

Neuropathic pain is the result of damage to the brain, spinal cord, or nerves. It affects around 9.8% of patients in most pain treatment clinics.

7. 18% of women suffer from migraine attacks.

(Cleveland Clinic)

Who suffers the most from chronic pain? Well, all four types of chronic pain—lower back pain, migraines, facial pain, and neck pain—are more common in women. For instance, migraines or severe headaches occur in women the most (especially between ages 20–45), with only about 7% of male Americans being affected.

Figures on Chronic Back Pain

Chronic Pain Statistics

8. Back surgery fails up to 40% of the time.

(NIH)

As for the second or third interventions, the failure rate can be as high as 70%. Among the most effective techniques to treat back pain are epiduroscopy and spinal cord stimulation.  

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

(The Guardian)

According to lower back pain statistics from The Guardian, the UK has seen a 12% increase in disability due to this health condition.

10. The number of back pain incidences spike in elderly people above 60–65 years.

(AAPM)

The prevalence of chronic pain increases with age, reaching as high as 65% among older people living independently and 80% among seniors living in long-term care facilities. These chronic pain statistics taken on a worldwide scale by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine demonstrate that back pain problems are underestimated and inadequately treated. Along with old age, the main risk factors for back pain problems also include tobacco consumption, obesity, stress, anxiety, being a woman, and depression.

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

(The Good Body)

What is the most common type of chronic pain? The most frequent problems causing pain are lower back pain (27%), severe headache or migraine (15%), neck pain (15%), and facial pain (4%).

12. JFK went through four unsuccessful surgeries for his chronic back pain.

(The JNS)

JFK began to suffer chronic back pain at 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. According to his brother Robert, “At least half of the days he spent in this world were days of intense physical suffering from pain.”

Chronic Pain and Suicide Statistics

Chronic Pain Statistics

13. People with chronic pain consider suicide twice as often.

(US Pain Foundation)

Among people with chronic pain, the risk of committing suicide is twice as high as it is for people who do not suffer from it.

14. 34.6% of pain patients in Canada think of suicide.

(Sage Pub)

As for suicide and chronic pain statistics, it was found that more than 50% of people waiting for care at a pain clinic in Canada had severe depression. Beyond that, 72.9% of these patients reported that pain disrupted their usual work.

15. 20% of pain-related suicides are a result of back pain.

(The Good Body)

Low back pain can be really frustrating, potentially causing patients to attempt suicide, according to certain low back pain statistics from 2018. The next cause of pain-related suicides is cancer, and then arthritis, according to research data from The Good Body.

16. Between 15% and 100% of patients with depression suffer from pain.

(PPM)

While this is a wide range, there’s no doubt that depression and pain go hand-in-hand. On top of that, 5%–85% of patients with a major form of depression suffer from some pain or other, according to further chronic pain and depression statistics. As a way to manage the pain, many patients resort to opiates. In turn, this has led to the dangerous misuse of these drugs, which costs the US around $78 billion every year, according to healthcare statistics.

Chronic Pain in North America

Chronic Pain Statistics

17. Lower back pain affects 80% of Americans.

(NIH)

If you have a recurring and persistent pain at the base of your spine, you aren’t alone. You’re just like 4 out of 5 people in the US all experiencing lower back pain—or will experience it sometime in the future. According to the NIH, chronic pain statistics show that this type of pain is one of the most common causes of job disability.

18. 1 in 5 Canadians suffers from chronic pain.

(CBC)

Worse still, children are not spared in this statistic. In fact, 5%–8% of children or adolescents have chronic pain (most often headaches, upset stomach, muscle or joint pain, or back pain) that’s severe enough to interfere with their activities.

19. Pain accounts for 78% of emergency room admissions in the US.  

(NCBI)

Pain is the most common reason for medical consultation. And yet, research into a large network of emergency services continues to highlight intense pain and its under-treatment.

20. Chronic pain is the leading cause of long-term disability in the US.

(NIH)

According to the NIH’s recent chronic pain statistics from 2019, chronic pain is the main cause of long-term disability in America. 1 out of every 4 Americans has experienced acute pain that lasted more than a day. These patients with chronic pain cannot (or have many limitations in their ability to) exercise, sleep normally, do housework, drive, maintain social activity, walk, or have sex.

21. 50 million Americans live with chronic pain.  

(CDC)

How many Americans are affected by chronic pain? 50 million people in the US—and more than 20% of the country’s adult population—suffer from chronic pain. In addition, 20 million of them suffer from severe pain such that it limits the sufferer’s productive life (i.e., work, sleep, and other activities). Women, the elderly, those who are unemployed, and those living below the poverty line are also more predisposed to chronic pain and HICP, according to the CDC and their chronic pain statistics.

22. Between $560 and $630 billion is lost annually due to chronic pain in America.

(Science Daily)

According to US data, the cost of chronic pain in adults, including healthcare expenditures and the loss of productivity, is around $560–$630 billion annually. In addition to this data, it’s estimated that the cost of chronic pain in Canada is at least $56–$60 billion.

23. Lower back pain affects over 26 million people between 20 and 64 years of age in the US.

(The Good Body)

According to chronic pain statistics from 2017, this type of chronic pain is so frequent in adults that it affects 26 million people aged 20–64 in the US.

24. Pain disrupts 42 million American adults’ sleep.

(National Sleep Foundation)

According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 42 million Americans (amounting to around 20% of adult Americans) reported that physical discomforts and pains, such as high impact chronic pain (HICP), disrupt their sleep a few nights every week.

25. Less than 1% of grants in Canada go to pain research.

(NCBI)

In Canada, financial support for pain research is clearly inadequate. Along with there being less than 1% of grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research going to pain research, only 0.25% of the total funding for health research is devoted to pain studies. This is a particular concern given the social and economic costs caused by chronic pain.

26. People with less education are 80% more likely to have chronic pain than those with higher levels of education.

(SD)

Research has shown that there’s a correlation between chronic pain and poverty and education. According to a study by the University at Buffalo, patients who didn’t complete high school are 370% more likely to suffer from a severe type of chronic pain than people who possess graduate degrees.

Chronic Pain in Europe

Chronic Pain Statistics

27. 500 million working days are lost in Europe due to chronic pain, which costs €300 billion.

(EPF)

Chronic pain produces more than 500 million days of lost work in Europe. It’s estimated that pain costs Europe more than €300 billion (1.5%–3% of the GDP), according to the pain statistics from the European Pain Federation.

28. 20.2% of the adult Danish population suffers from chronic pain.

(Research Gate)

Around 1 out of every 5 adults in Denmark is affected by this disorder. In a study carried out in Denmark on the spread of persistent pain, researchers found that about 38% of the population suffers from it.

29. When it comes to hospital care in the Netherlands, musculoskeletal disorders are the 5th most expensive type of disease.

(NCBI)

A study conducted in the Netherlands found that musculoskeletal disorders represent the fifth category in order of cost in terms of hospital care. It is also the most expensive in terms of absenteeism and occupational disability (1.7 % of GDP).

30. £12.3 billion is spent annually in the UK to treat back pain.  

(The Guardian)

According to The Guardian’s lower back chronic pain statistics from 2018, the United Kingdom’s annual costs of back pain are around £12.3 billion, and £1.6 billion is spent each year on treatment.

31. 66% of Swedes reported having experienced pain.

(Research Gate)

According to the chronic pain statistics in Europe published by PubMed, a mail survey in Sweden found that 66% of residents reported experiencing pain or discomfort, while 34% suffered from “severe” pains with an NRS measuring between 8 and 10.

32. 50% of Grampians reported chronic pain.

(Semantic Scholar)

A study of chronic pain in the Grampian area of ​​Scotland found that 50% of those involved reported chronic pain or discomfort, 16% with back pain and 16% with arthritis. Additionally, in 16% of the investigated cases, the chronic pain was severe.

33.  In Sweden, spinal pain is common among people 35–45 years of age.

(NCBI)

According to back pain statistics retrieved from a study carried out in Sweden, pain in the spine is very common among men and women between 35 and 45 years. For about a quarter of those surveyed, it was also associated with marked lifestyle limitations.

35. In Finland, pain is the reason for a health services consultation 40% of the time.

(Research Gate)

A recent chronic pain stat derived from a study of 5,646 patient visits for basic health services found pain to be the reason for 40% of those visits in Finland. One-fifth of the patients reported having experienced pain for over six months. A quarter of the working-age patients suffering from pain received a paid mutual benefit.  

35. Even back in 1998, the cost of pain syndromes was £1.6 billion in the UK.

(Strath Prints)

Contrary to what’s been indicated in the latest chronic pain statistics, a study of the socio-economic costs of pain syndromes in the United Kingdom estimates that the cost of direct health care in 1998 was £1.6 billion. However, this direct cost is insignificant compared to the cost of informal care and associated production losses, whose total amount was £10.7 billion.

The Bottom Line

Comprehensive epidemiological surveys and studies that give a broader understanding of chronic pain on a global level are not currently available. However, a number of the more limited, population-defined chronic pain statistics are sufficient to prove beyond doubt that pain is one of the main health problems among humans.

On a global scale, chronic pain has serious negative effects on the quality of life of the millions of people suffering from it. Without adequate treatment, these people are often unable to work or even perform the simplest of tasks, as revealed by these chronic back pain statistics. As a result, these patients often experience psychosocial and physical deprivation, including anxiety, fear, and depression. Considering these risks, devoting more funding and attention to the treatment of chronic pain becomes vital.

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