More Prime-Aged Men Not Working Due To Chronic Pain


A significantly larger percentage of American men in their prime years are not active in the workforce, but a California-based professor has argued the issue is one of chronic pain and not apathy.

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 11.5 percent of men ages 24-54 are not employed or looking for a job, but this number doesn’t even factor those who are formally classified as unemployed. Roughly six percent of men blamed illness or disability for their lack of employment, up from 1.6 percent in 1968. In 1948, only 3.3 percent of men in their prime years didn’t work.

Princeton professor Alan Krueger, a former chief economist at the Department of Labor and former chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said in his paper for a Federal Reserve conference in Boston that chronic pain is the primary cause for men in their prime years not working.

“This is a group is that particularly unhappy and distressed, that often faces significant health conditions which are a barrier to employment,” noted Krueger in an interview with the Oakland Press.

The findings in Kruger’s paper show that 44 percent of male prime-aged labor force dropouts had taken pain medication the day before, more than double the rate reported by employed men. Over one-third of this demographic reported a chronic disability, while 20 percent said they had difficulty climbing or even walking up stairs.

This pain isn’t just physical, though. The men who weren’t in the workforce also reported higher levels of emotional pain that included sadness, stress and chronic tiredness.

“We should look at interventions to help this group get back on their feet and become healthy enough and maintain their health long enough to start working again,” said Krueger.

Other research projects have also recorded similar findings. A study released last year by Princeton University showed that among white Americans ages 45-54, one-third reported some form of chronic joiny pain and about 20 percent reported chronic neck pain.