Pain Prevalence and Severity Among U.S. Residents

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6.4% of adults classified as having highest level of pain, based on persistence, bothersomeness.
6.4% of adults classified as having highest level of pain, based on persistence, bothersomeness.

(HealthDay News) -- An approach for classifying pain severity developed by the Washington Group on Disability Statistics is effective for assessing self-reported pain among U.S. adults, according to a study published in The Journal of Pain.

Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., describes self-reported pain among U.S. adults. Nahin included data for 8,781 adults who completed the Functioning and Disability Supplement of the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. Participants were grouped into 5 discrete ordered pain categories based on pain persistence and bothersomeness using an internationally piloted pain severity coding system.

Nahin estimated that 126.1 million adults reported some pain in the previous 3 months, with 11.2 and 10.3% suffering from daily (chronic) pain and reporting a lot of pain, respectively. Overall 6.4% of adults were classified as having the highest level of pain (category 4), while 11.3% experienced category 3 pain. Compared to those with less severe pain, those with category 3 or 4 pain were more likely to have worse health status, use more health care, and suffer from more disability. Pain severity was associated with selected demographic variables, including race, ethnicity, preferred language, sex, and age.

"Although these data are promising, additional work is required to determine the usefulness of the Washington Group pain categories for pain research or clinical practice," Nahin writes.


  1. Richard L. Nahin. The Journal of Pain, August 2015; doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2015.05.002
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