Chronic pain is one of the most common medical issues Americans face, and it has become even more prevalent in the last decade. Although significant resources have been directed toward treating and finding ways to prevent serious illness, with the United States spending $194.2 billion on medical and health research and development in 2018, chronic pain hasn’t received much attention. This is despite the fact that more than 20% of American adults are affected by chronic pain, with a new study finding that the rates of chronic pain have been steadily increasing across all adult demographics.
Published in the journal “Demography,” the study pointed out that although chronic pain has been on the rise across all demographics of U.S. adults, it is more prevalent in adults from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Researchers looked at data sources from the National Interview Survey, which ran from 2002 to 2018. An estimated 19,040 to 33,149 people responded each year, adding up to a total of 441,707 people over the survey’s entire 16-year run. With such an immense data set at their disposal, the researchers were able to study various aspects of the participants’ health.
For instance, survey respondents were asked about five common sites of pain — the joints, lower back, neck, jaw and face — and where they felt the most pain. Additionally, the survey provided tremendous amounts of data on the participants’ age, gender, race, ethnicity, education, income, social and economic status. After studying the data extensively, researchers found that the prevalence of chronic pain had increased more for older adults and Black, less-educated males with lower incomes. Conversely, the prevalence had increased at lower rates for white, more-educated females with higher incomes.
Despite these disparities, the consensus was that there was an increase in chronic pain across the board, regardless of social or economic status, says study co-author and associate professor of sociology at the University of Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences Dr. Hanna Grol-Prokopcyzk. There was a 10% increase in pain in at least one of the five common sites during the study’s 16-year run, representing 10 million more adult Americans. At the start of the study in 2002, the lower back and the joints were the most prevalent pain sites, and this remained the same by the time the study drew to a close in 2018.
For individuals aged 65 to 85 years, chronic pain was often associated with physical health issues such as diabetes, kidney issues, hypertension, and high body mass index. On the other hand, chronic pain in younger and middle-aged individuals was more associated with mental health issues such as stress and often led to alcohol abuse. According to Grol-Prokopcyzk, pain is one of the leading causes of disability, and their findings prove that it should be treated as a public health issue. Not only does it affect the quality of life of those it affects, but it can also have an impact on overall life expectancy, she says.
These statistics show that medical marijuana sector players such as Grapefruit USA Inc. (OTCQB: GPFT) have their work cut out for them as they work to develop products that can alleviate chronic pain so that fewer people have to resort to opioids.
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