The majority of Americans — 58.9 percent of adults — are living with pain. Back pain is the most common type of pain, affecting nearly 2 out of 5 U.S. adults in the last three months, according to the findings from a report released by the National Center for Health Statistics.
“This survey gives numbers to something that we’ve been seeing in the population for a long time,” says Whitney Luke, MD, a pain medicine specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
“There’s a lot of things that contribute to chronic pain. An initial or acute injury to a part of the body can be the cause,” says Dr. Luke. Lifestyle factors, such as physical inactivity, poor sleep, stress, smoking, and unmanaged depression or anxiety are also linked to experiencing higher levels of pain, she says.
The data used in the report came from the redesigned 2019 National Health Interview Survey, which is administered throughout the year by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The answers were collected via a questionnaire completed by one randomly selected adult in a total of 31,997 households.
Back Pain More Prevalent in Older Adults, Women, White Americans, and People With a Lower Household Income
A total of 39 percent of people had back pain in the last three months, a condition that was more common in older age groups; back pain was reported by about 44 percent of adults ages 45 to 64 and 45 percent of people 65 and older. Women were more likely to have back pain than men — 40.6 percent compared with 37.2 percent.
White Americans were the mostly likely to report back pain (42.7 percent) compared with Black Americans (35.8 percent), Hispanic (31.2 percent), and Asian Americans (24.5 percent).
A higher household income made it less likely for people to report back pain. In houses with an income of less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), 44.8 adults had back pain compared with 37.6 percent of adults living in house that earned 200 percent of the FPL.
Older People Living With Pain
People ages 65 and older were more likely to have pain than any other age group; in addition to having a higher prevalence of back pain, 42 percent had arm, hand, or shoulder pain compared with 30.7 percent for the population overall, and 50.3 percent had pain in their hips and legs compared with 36.5 percent of the population.
Thanks to medical breakthroughs and management we are living longer than ever, but we weren’t really designed to live to be 90 or 100 years old, says Luke.
In 1920, the life expectancy for the average American was 53 years old compared …….