Pain is by far the most common chronic ailment in America, study finds

Pain is the most common chronic ailment in America by far, a new study finds, and people in pain tend to stay in pain over the course of a year.

The study, published this week in JAMA Network Open, compared the pain scores of more than 10,000 people from 2019 to 2020.

Pain was found to be far more common than other chronic diseases. If 1,000 people were measured for a year, the study said, there would be 52 cases of chronic pain, 45 cases of high blood pressure, 16 cases of depression and seven cases of diabetes.

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Volunteers were asked several questions: “In the past 3 months, how often did you have pain? Would you say never, some days, most days, or every day?” and “Over the past 3 months, how often did pain limit your life or work activities? Would you say never, some days, most days, or every day?”

At the start, about 40% reported no pain, about the same percentage reported some pain, and more than 20% reported chronic pain, suffering on most days or every day for at least the past three months.

In some cases, people recovered over the following year, while for others, their pain progressed. Nearly 15% of those with some pain in 2019 reported chronic pain a year later, while 10% of those reporting chronic pain in 2019 no longer had it the following year.

But the more pain someone was in in 2019, the more likely they were to still be suffering a year later and the greater their chances of having pain that limited their life or work activities.

Older people were more likely to report chronic pain than younger ones, and those without a college degree reported more pain than college graduates.

Just over half the study volunteers were women, 54% were ages 18 to 49, and the rest were over 50. Just under 30% were college graduates. The group was roughly reflective of the broader population by race and ethnicity, with 2% American Indian or Alaska Native, 6% Asian, 12% Black, 73% white, and 17% identified as Hispanic.

Contact Karen Weintraub at

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This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Chronic pain often lasts more than a year, study finds