Pain is More Than Expensive

Chronic pain conditions cost billions of dollars every year

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) The U.S. economy feels the impact of lower worker production and higher healthcare costs due to chronic pain. What can be done to help patients feel better and get back to work?

A recent study surveyed a national sample of U.S. adults about pain conditions and lost wages from missing work. Results found that yearly costs for pain conditions could be as high as $635 billion.

Not only does pain cost money for medical treatment, it also lowers work productivity and has the potential to complicate other medical conditions.

The number of patients missing partial or full workdays or making lower wages due to chronic pain is high enough to impact the national economy.

"Talk to your doctor about pain management."

Darrell J. Gaskin, PhD, associate professor of health economics at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, led the investigation.
For the study, a sample of 20,214 adults 18 and older provided data for the 2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS).

This sample was meant to represent 210.7 million people and was used to evaluate chronic pain in the U.S. population.

The 2008 MEPS provided data to pinpoint the amount of U.S. healthcare costs due to chronic pain and the yearly cost to the overall economy due to lack of worker productivity from chronic pain.

Study authors took the 2008 data and put it into 2010 money values. Results found that chronic pain costs the U.S. between $560 to $635 billion dollars.

Healthcare costs alone from chronic pain ranged from $261 to $300 billion.

Work productivity costs alone from chronic pain were ranged from $299 to $335 billion.

To put it into perspective, researchers claimed that the yearly costs of a person with chronic pain issues was higher than that of a person with heart disease ($309 billion), cancer ($243 billion) and diabetes ($188).

Yearly healthcare costs for U.S. adults were an estimated $4,475. But for patients with pain the cost was much higher.

Patients with moderate pain levels had $4,516 more in healthcare expenses. Those with severe pain had an additional $3,210 compared to those with moderate pain.

For those with other health-related pain conditions the cost was significantly greater. Patients with joint pain exceeded the national average by $4,048, those with arthritis had $5,838 in higher costs and patients with functional disability types of pain had $9,680 greater cost per year

This study did not take nursing home residents, children, military personnel or people in the jail system into account.

Contributing expert on healthcare economics, Adam Powell, PhD, said, “Unlike other chronic conditions, which primarily impact people during the final decades of life, chronic pain is felt by young and old employees alike.”

“As a result, it can have a substantial impact on absenteeism and presenteeism, as well as on employee medical expenditures. This study helps put a number on both the direct and indirect financial impact of chronic pain.”

“Assessments such as this are important, as they help employers evaluate the return on investment of changes that have the potential to reduce chronic pain.”

Study authors said, “Because of its economic toll on society, the nation should invest in research, education, and training to advocate the successful treatment, management, and prevention of pain.”

This study was published in August in The Journal of Pain. No funding information was given and no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 21, 2012
Last Updated:
September 28, 2012