Study Finds Less Educated And Poor More Likely To Have Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain

A new study has found that less-educated and poorer older Americans are more likely to be living with chronic pain.

The findings, published in this month’s issue of the journal Pain, came from research at the University of Buffalo. The scientists analyzed 12 years of data that tracked more than 19,000 patents ages 51 and over.

People with the least education are 80 percent more likely to experience chronic pain than people with the most. Looking exclusively at severe pain, subjects who didn’t finish high school are 370 percent more likely to experience severe chronic pain than those with graduate degrees.

In addition, chronic pain levels are also rising by period and not just by age, meaning people who were in their 60s in 2010 reported more pain than people who were in their 60s in 1998.

“I found that people with lower levels of education and wealth don’t just have more pain, they also have more severe pain,”said Hanna Grol-Prokopczyk, an assistant professor of sociology at UB and the paper’s author. “I also looked at pain-related disability, meaning that pain is interfering with the ability to do normal work or household activities.

Tens of millions of American adults experience chronic pain. A 2011 Institute of Medicine report (now the National Academy of Science Health and Medicine Division) noted that chronic pain affects more people and costs the economy more money than heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. Yet most research on the condition has asked only whether people had chronic pain or did not.

“In part, this study should be a reminder that many people are legitimately suffering from pain,” said Grol-Prokopczyk. “Health care providers shouldn’t assume that someone who shows up in their office complaining of pain is just trying to get an opioid prescription. We have to remember that pain is a legitimate and widespread problem.”