10% of Americans Struggle With Chronic Pain

And one in four adults suffered a daylong bout of pain in past month, report found

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By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 15, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- If you suffer from prolonged pain, you're not alone -- 25 percent of American adults say they've experienced pain that lasts at least one day and 10 percent say they've lived with pain that persists a year or more.

These findings are among many others contained in the U.S. government's annual report on the nation's well-being, Health United States, 2006, released Wednesday.

But the report also contains some encouraging statistics. Among them: life expectancy has hit a record high; the infant mortality rate is falling; and deaths from heart disease are down, although it remains the nation's number-one killer. Less encouraging is the news that the diabetes epidemic continues to threaten more Americans.

"We are living longer, and we have more chronic conditions," said lead author Amy Bernstein, chief of the analytic studies branch at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. "Diabetes rates are increasing, obesity rates are increasing. And as people live longer they get more chronic conditions, including pain."

This year's report highlights pain. "Pain is even more common than people might have thought," Bernstein said. "But pain is rarely discussed as a condition in and of itself. It is mostly viewed as a symptom of another condition."

According to the report, 21 percent of adults aged 65 and older said they had experienced pain in the past month that lasted for more than 24 hours. And almost three-fifths of adults 65 and older said their pain had lasted a year or more.

Over one-quarter of adults said they had low back pain in the past three months. Fifteen percent complained of migraine or severe headache in the past three months. And adults aged 18 to 44 were almost three times more likely than adults 65 and older to report migraines or severe headaches.

Severe joint pain increases with age, and women reported severely painful joints more often than men. "It's likely as the population gets older and fatter we will see more joint pain," Berstein said.

Between the periods 1988-94 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.

Among the report's other findings:

  • Life expectancy reached a record 77.9 years in 2004, up from 77.5 in 2003 and 75.4 in 1990. In addition, since 1990, the gap in life expectancy between men and women has narrowed from seven to just over five years. Among women, life expectancy is just over 80 years and it's almost 75 for men. Also, the gap in life expectancy between white and blacks has narrowed from seven years in 1990 to five years in 2004.
  • Infant mortality dropped to 6.8 deaths per 1,000 births in 2004, down from 6.9 deaths per 1,000 births in 2003.
  • Heart disease is still the nation's leading killer, but deaths from heart disease fell 16 percent between 2000 and 2004. And deaths from cancer -- the number 2 killer -- fell 8 percent. The death rate for heart disease was 217 deaths per 100,000 in 2004; the death rate for cancer was 186 per 100,000.
  • The United States spent an average of $6,280 per person on health care in 2004. However, 7 percent of people under 65 said they didn't get needed care in the past year because of the cost.
  • Diabetes continues to be a growing threat, especially among older adults. Eleven percent of adults aged 40 to 59 and 23 percent of those 60 and older have diabetes.

The bad news about diabetes was echoed in two other government reports released Wednesday.

Between 1996 and 2003, the number of adult diabetes patients soared from 9.9 million to 13.7 million, and their individual annual spending on prescription drugs jumped almost 86 percent, from $476 to $883.

According to the reports, from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, overall care for patients with diabetes -- including treatment in and out of hospital and for other illnesses such as congestive heart failure -- averaged more than $10,000 annually.

More information

You can read the entire report on the nation's well-being at the National Center for Health Statistics.

SOURCES: Amy Bernstein, Sc.D., chief, analytic studies branch, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, Md.; Nov. 15, 2006, Health, United States, 2006, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Nov. 15, 2006, news release, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

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