New Report Finds Pain Affects Millions of Americans

For Release: Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Contact: CDC National Center for Health Statistics Press Office (301) 458-4800


Health, United States, 2006, With Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans With Special Feature on Pain. 559 pp. (PHS) 2006-1232. GPO stock number is 017-022-01602-8. This report may be purchased from the Government Printing Office Health, United States, 2006, Home page

One in four U.S. adults say they suffered a day-long bout of pain in the past month, and 1 in 10 say the pain lasted a year or more, according to the government’s annual, comprehensive report of Americans’ health, Health United States, 2006, released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.

“We chose to focus on pain in this report because it is rarely discussed as a condition in and of itself – it is mostly viewed as a byproduct of another condition,” said lead study author Amy Bernstein. “We also chose this topic because the associated costs of pain are posing a great burden on the health care system, and because there are great disparities among different population groups in terms of who suffer from pain.”

Low back pain is among the most common complaints, along with migraine or severe headache, and joint pain, aching or stiffness. The knee is the joint that causes the most pain according to the report. Hospitalization rates for knee replacement procedures rose nearly 90 percent between 1992-1993 and 2003-2004 among those 65 and older.

Some of the other pain statistics include:

  • One-fifth of adults 65 years and older said they had experienced pain in the past month that persisted for more than 24 hours.
  • Almost three-fifths of adults 65 and older with pain said it had lasted for 1 year or more.
  • More than one-quarter of adults interviewed said they had experienced low back pain in the past 3 months.
  • Fifteen percent of adults experienced migraine or severe headache in the past 3 months. Adults ages 18-44 were almost three times as likely as adults 65 and older to report migraines or severe headaches.
  • Reports of severe joint pain increased with age, and women reported severely painful joints more often than men (10 percent versus 7 percent).
  • Between the periods 1988-1994 and 1999-2002, the percentage of adults who took a narcotic drug to alleviate pain in the past month rose from 3.2 percent to 4.2 percent.

The report also finds that the United States spent an average of $6,280 per person on health care in 2004. Seven percent of adults under 65 said they passed up getting needed care in the past 12 months due to costs.

The report also notes a number of other significant health findings:

  • Life expectancy at birth reached a record 77.9 years in 2004, up from 77.5 in 2003 and from 75.4 in 1990. Since 1990, the gap in life expectancy between men and women has narrowed from 7 to just over 5 (5.2) years. At birth, life expectancy for females is just over 80 years and nearly 75 for males. The gap in life expectancy between white and black Americans also has narrowed from 7 years in 1990 to 5 years in 2004.
  • Infant mortality fell to 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004, down from 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2003.
  • Heart disease remains the leading killer, but deaths from heart disease fell 16 percent between 2000 and 2004, and deaths from cancer – the No. 2 killer – dropped 8 percent. The age-adjusted death rate for heart disease was 217 deaths per 100,000 in 2004; for cancer the rate was 186 per 100,000.
  • Diabetes poses a growing threat, especially among older adults. Eleven percent of adults aged 40-59 years, and 23 percent of those 60 and older have diabetes.