Nearly 50 million American adults have significant chronic pain or severe pain, according to a study in the August issue of the Journal of Pain. 

Authoring the study on behalf of the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, Richard L. Nahin, PhD, MPH, analyzed data on 8,781 adults who completed the Functioning and Disability Supplement of the 2012 National Health Interview Survey.

The study estimates that 126.1 million adults reported some pain in the previous 3 months, with 25.3 million adults (11.2%) having daily (chronic) pain and 23.4 million (10.3%) reporting a lot of pain. Based on reports of the persistence and bothersomeness of their pain, the researchers estimated that 14.4 million adults (6.4%) were classified as having the highest level of pain (category 4) and an additional 25.4 million adults (11.3%) had category 3 pain.

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Individuals with category 3 or 4 pain were likely to have worse health status, to use more health care services, and to experience more disability than those with less severe pain. 

Despite these findings, the data indicated that half of individuals with the most severe pain still rated their overall health as good or better. Women, older individuals, and non-Hispanics were more likely to report any pain, but Asians less likely.