Chronic pain costs Americans up to $635 billion a year in additional health care coverage and lost productivity, according to a comprehensive new study. The economic burden of chronic pain in the U.S. now exceeds that of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Researchers at John Hopkins University analyzed data on over 20,000 adult patients in the 2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. They defined persons with pain as those who have pain that limits their ability to work, are diagnosed with joint pain or arthritis, or have a disability that limits their capacity to work..
They found that the average annual health care cost for an adult in 2008 was $4,475. The cost rose to $8,991 for those with moderate pain; $7,685 for patients with severe pain; $8,523 for people with joint pain, $10,313 for patients with arthritis pain; and $14,155 for patients with functional disabilities.
Researchers say adults with pain also reported missing more days from work than people without pain. They noted that pain impacted three components of productivity: work days missed, number of hours worked and hourly wages.
The researchers concluded that that the total cost for pain in the United States ranged from $560 to $635 billion. The cost of health care due to pain ranged from $261 to $300 billion, and the cost of lost productivity ranged from $299 to $334 billion.
The researchers noted that their estimates were conservative, and that they would have been even greater if their analysis included the costs associated with nursing homes, children, military personnel, prisoners and care givers.
The results are similar to those found in a 2011 report by the Institute of Medicine, which estimated annual expenditures related to pain, including direct medical costs and lost wages, at $560 to $635 billion a year.
The John Hopkins study was published in the Journal of Pain.