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Prevalence and Profile of High-Impact Chronic Pain in the United States

Open AccessPublished:August 07, 2018DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2018.07.006

      Highlights

      • Chronic pain is associated with a substantial likelihood of disability.
      • High-impact chronic pain incorporates both disability and pain duration.
      • The high-impact chronic pain population exhibits severe pain and mental health and cognitive impairments.
      • This population reports more difficulty with self-care and higher health care use.
      • Despite worsening health, disability is not owing to other chronic health conditions.

      Abstract

      The multidimensional nature of chronic pain is not reflected by definitions based solely on pain duration, resulting in high prevalence estimates limiting effective policy development. The newly proposed concept of high-impact chronic pain (HICP) incorporates both disability and pain duration to identify a more severely impacted portion of the chronic pain population yet remains uncharacterized at the population level. As such, we used the 2011 National Health Interview Survey (N = 15,670) to 1) assess the likelihood of disability in the overall chronic pain population, 2) estimate the prevalence of HICP, and 3) characterize the disability, health status, and health care use profile of this population in the United States. Overall, chronic pain, defined as pain experienced on most days or every day in the previous 3 months, was strongly associated with an increased risk of disability after controlling for other chronic health conditions (odds ratio = 4.43; 95% confidence interval = 3.73–5.26), where disability was more likely in those with chronic pain than in those with stroke or kidney failure, among others. HICP affected 4.8% of the U.S. adult population, or approximately 10.6 million individuals, in 2011. The HICP population reported more severe pain and more mental health and cognitive impairments than persons with chronic pain without disability, and was also more likely to report worsening health, more difficulty with self-care, and greater health care use. HICP clearly represents a more severely impacted portion of the chronic pain population. Understanding this heterogeneity will contribute to developing more effective legislation promoting safe and cost-effective approaches to the prevention and treatment of chronic pain.

      Perspective

      HICP is a powerful new classification that differentiates those with debilitating chronic pain from those with less impactful chronic pain. By addressing the multidimensionality of chronic pain, this classification will improve clinical practice, research, and the development of effective health policy.

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      it is possible that individuals with severe pain may have difficulty distinguishing the increased effort required to carry out important life activities from the actual incapacity to participate in these activities. As such, we used an alternative approach to untether the pain experience from its impact; activity limitations/participation restrictions were assessed using general disability questions that do not refer to the pain experience. We operationalized HICP as having pain on most/every day in the previous 3 months with ≥1 concomitant activity limitation/participation restriction. The chronic pain without limitations (CPWL) group, however, had pain on most days/every day in the previous 3 months without activity limitations/participation restrictions. We used nationally representative data from the 2011 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) to assess the prevalence, psychosocial characteristics, health status, and health care use of the HICP and CPWL populations, as well as to determine the degree of contribution made by other chronic health conditions on activity limitations/participation restrictions.

      Methods

      Data Source

      The NHIS is a multistage probability health monitoring survey, collected according to a complex sample design incorporating stratification, clustering, and multistage sampling, that is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the National Center for Health Statistics.
      National Center for Health Statistics: National Health Interview Survey
      Data file documentation, National Health Interview Survey, 2011 (machine readable data file and documentation).
      Targeting the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population, the 2011 survey is based on personal interview responses from 101,875 individuals from 40,496 families in 39,509 households. Individuals living in long-term care facilities, correctional facilities, and active duty Armed Forces personnel were excluded. The NHIS is composed of multiple core components including the Sample Adult file. In general, the Sample Adult section is intended to gather more detailed information from selected adults about themselves. A total of 40,496 adults were eligible for the Sample Adult questionnaire, and data from 33,014 adults were collected, representing a conditional response rate of 81.6%. Approximately one-half of the total adult sample was randomly selected to receive the Adult Functioning and Disability Supplement (AFD), for a total of 15,670 individuals included in this analysis (Fig 1). Full eligibility criteria, sources, and methods of selection of participants for the 2006–2015 NHIS are available at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/2006var.pdf. The AFD assessed functioning and disability in domains including sensory, motor, communication, cognitive, emotional, pain, and fatigue. Data from the 2011 NHIS were used because 2011 the most recent year where the AFD contained items referring to specific activity limitations/participation restrictions.
      Fig 1
      Figure 1Flowchart representing the NHIS sampling procedure for the 2011 survey.

      Demographic Variable Recoding

      In some cases, NHIS variables were recoded to identify specific subgroups. Age and body mass index (BMI), both coded as continuous variables (AGE_P and BMI, respectively), were recoded into discrete categories. Ethnicity was recoded from 2 separate NHIS ethnicity items (MRACRP12 and HISPAN_I) to include 7 ethnicities: white, black/African American, Hispanic, American Indian/Inuit, Asian Indian, Asian, or multiple/unspecified. Marital status (R_MARITL) was recoded such that individuals who were married and living with a partner or unmarried but living with a partner were categorized as married/living with partner. Individuals who identified as divorced, separated, or married but not living with a partner were categorized as divorced/separated. All other marital status subcategories were not recoded. Table 1 includes all NHIS questions used in this analysis.
      Table 1NHIS Items Used in This Analysis
      Question IdentifierInstrument Variable NameSubscaleQuestionTime FrameTable
      HHC.110_00.000SEXSamAdultSexNot applicable1
      HHC.420_00.000AGE_PSamAdultAgeCurrent1
      HHC.180_00.000HISPAN_1SamAdultHispanic subgroup detailNot applicable1
      HHC.200_01.000MRACBPI2SamAdultRace coded to single/multiple race groupNot applicable1
      FSD.010_00.000EDUCPERSHighest level of school completedCurrent1
      FID.250_00.000R_MARITLSamAdultAre you now married, widowed, divorced, separated, never married, or living with a partner?Current1
      AHB.200_02.000BMISamAdultBMICurrent1
      UCF.000_00.000REGIONSamAdultRegionCurrent1
      ACN.201_04.000KIDWKYRSamAdultDuring the past 12 months, have you been told by a doctor or other health professional that you had weak/failing kidneys? Do not include kidney stones, bladder infections or incontinence.Previous 12 months2
      ACN.031_05.000STREVSamAdultHave you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you had a stroke?Ever2
      ACN.031_06.000EPHEVSamAdultHave you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you had emphysema?Ever2
      ACN.201_03.000CBRCHYRSamAdultDuring the past 12 months, have you been told by a doctor or other health professional that you had chronic bronchitis?Previous 12 months2
      ACN.201_05.000LIVYRSamAdultDuring the past 12 months, have you been told by a doctor or other health professional that you had any kind of liver condition?Previous 12 months2
      ACN.290_00.000ARTHSamAdultHave you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia?Ever2
      ACN.160_00.000DIBEVSamAdultHave you ever been told by a doctor or health professional that you have diabetes or sugar diabetes?Ever2
      ACN.031_03.000MIEVSamAdultHave you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you had a heart attack (also called myocardial infarction)?Ever2
      ACN.031_01.000CHDEVSamAdultHave you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you had coronary heart disease?Ever2
      ACN.031_04.000HRTEVSamAdultHave you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you had any kind of heart condition or heart disease (other than the ones I just asked about)?Ever2
      ACN.031_02.000ANGEVSamAdultHave you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you had angina pectoris?Ever2
      ACN.010_00.000HYPEVSamAdultHave you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you had hypertension, also called high blood pressure?Ever2
      ACN.080_00.000AASMEVSamAdultHave you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you had asthma?Ever2
      ACN.130_00.000CANEVSamAdultHave you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you had cancer or a malignancy of any kind?Ever2
      AFD.500_00.000PAIN_2Func/DisIn the past 3 months, how often did you have pain? Would you say never, some days, most days, or every day?Past 3 months2
      AFD.520_00.000PAIN_4Func/DisThinking about the last time you had pain, how much pain did you have? Would you say a little, a lot, or somewhere in between?Last time with pain3
      ACN.250_00.000JNTSYMPSamAdultDuring the past 30 days, have you had any symptoms of pain, aching, or stiffness in or around a joint? Please do NOT include the back or neck.Previous 30 days3
      ACN.300_00.000PAINNECKSamAdultThe following questions are about pain you may have experienced in the past 3 months. Please refer to pain that lasted a whole day or more. Do not report aches and pains that are fleeting or minor. During the past 3 months, did you have…Neck pain?Previous 3 months3
      ACN.310_00.000PAINLBSamAdultThe following questions are about pain you may have experienced in the past 3 months. Please refer to pain that lasted a whole day or more. Do not report aches and pains that are fleeting or minor. During the past 3 months, did you have...Low back pain?Previous 3 months3
      ACN.320_00.000PAINLEGSamAdultThe following questions are about pain you may have experienced in the past 3 months. Please refer to pain that lasted a whole day or more. Do not report aches and pains that are fleeting or minor. Did this pain spread down either leg to areas below the knees?Previous 3 months3
      ACN.331_01.000PAINFACESamAdultThe following questions are about pain you may have experienced in the past 3 months. Please refer to pain that lasted a whole day or more. Do not report aches and pains that are fleeting or minor. During the past 3 months, did you have...Facial ache or pain in the jaw muscles or the joint in front of the ear?Previous 3 months3
      ACN.331_02.000AMIGRSamAdultThe following questions are about pain you may have experienced in the past 3 months. Please refer to pain that lasted a whole day or more. Do not report aches and pains that are fleeting or minor. During the past 3 months, did you have...Severe headache or migraine?Previous 3 months3
      AFD.590_00.008QOL_2HFunc/DisFor each of the following activities, please tell me if you do the activity, don't do the activity, or are unable to do the activity. Participating in religious activities?Current4
      AFD.590_00.009QOL_2IFunc/DisFor each of the following activities, please tell me if you do the activity, don't do the activity, or are unable to do the activity. Participating in community gatherings?Current4
      AFD.590_00.005QOL_2EFunc/DisFor each of the following activities, please tell me if you do the activity, don't do the activity, or are unable to do the activity. Getting out with friends or family?Current4
      AFD.590_00.007QOL_2GFunc/DisFor each of the following activities, please tell me if you do the activity, don't do the activity, or are unable to do the activity. Using transportation to get to places you want to go?Current4
      AFD.590_00.006QOL_2FFunc/DisFor each of the following activities, please tell me if you do the activity, don't do the activity, or are unable to do the activity. Doing household chores such as cooking and cleaning?Current4
      AFD.590_00.004QOL_2DFunc/DisFor each of the following activities, please tell me if you do the activity, don't do the activity, or are unable to do the activity. Participating in leisure or social activities?Current4
      AFD.590_00.003QOL_2CFunc/DisFor each of the following activities, please tell me if you do the activity, don't do the activity, or are unable to do the activity. Going to school or achieving your education goals?Current4
      AFD.590_00.002QOL_2BFunc/DisFor each of the following activities, please tell me if you do the activity, don't do the activity, or are unable to do the activity. Working outside the home to earn an income?Current4
      AFD.450_00.000DEP_1Func/DisHow often do you feel depressed? Would you say daily, weekly, monthly, a few times a year, or never?Past to current5
      AFD.460_00.000DEP_2Func/DisDo you take medication for depression?Current5
      AFD.410_00.000ANX_1Func/DisHow often do you feel worried, nervous or anxious? Would you say daily, weekly, monthly, a few times a year, or never?Previous 3 months5
      AFD.420_00.000ANX_2Func/DisDo you take medication for these feelings?Current5
      AFD.540_00.000TIRED_1Func/DisIn the past 3 months, how often did you feel very tired or exhausted? Would you say never, some days, most days, or every day?Previous 3 months5
      AFD.300_00.000COG_SSFunc/DisDo you have difficulty remembering or concentrating? Would you say no difficulty, some difficulty, a lot of difficulty, or are you unable to do this?Current5
      FHS.500_00.000PHSTATPersWould you say your health in general is excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor?Current5
      AHS.060_00.000AHSTATYRSamAdultCompared with 12 months ago, would you say your health is better, worse, or about the same?12 months ago5
      AFD.360_00.000UB_SSFunc/DisDo you have difficulty with self-care, such as washing all over or dressing? Would you say no difficulty, some difficulty, a lot of difficulty, or are you unable to do this?Current5
      AHS.050_00.000BEDDAYRSamAdultDuring the past 12 months, about how many days did illness or injury keep you in bed more than half of the day? (Include days while an overnight patient in a hospital.)Previous 12 months5
      AAU.211_02.000AHCSYR9SamAdultDuring the past 12 months, have you seen or talked to any of the following health care providers about your own health? A general doctor who treats a variety of illnesses (a doctor in general practice, family medicine, or internal medicine).Previous 12 months5
      AAU.211_01.000AHCSYR8SamAdultDuring the past 12 months, have you seen or talked to any of the following health care providers about your own health? A medical doctor who specializes in a particular medical disease or problem (other than obstetrician/gynecologist, psychiatrist or ophthalmologist)?Previous 12 months5
      AAU.141_05.000AHCSYR5SamAdultDuring the past 12 months, have you seen or talked to any of the following health care providers about your own health? A physical therapist, speech therapist, respiratory therapist, audiologist, or occupational therapist.Previous 12 months5
      AAU.141_01.000AHCSYR1SamAdultDuring the past 12 months, have you seen or talked to any of the following health care providers about your own health? A mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric nurse, or clinical social worker.Previous 12 months5
      AAU.300_00.000ASRGNOYRSamAdultIncluding any times you may have already told me about, how many different times have you had surgery during the past 12 months?Previous 12 months5
      AAU.240_00.000AHERNOYRSamAdultDuring the past 12 months, how many times have you gone to a hospital emergency room about your own health? (This includes emergency room visits that resulted in a hospital admission.)Previous 12 months5
      AAU.250_00.000AHCHYRSamAdultDuring the past 12 months, did you receive care at home from a nurse or other health care professional?Previous 12 months5

      Operational Definitions of Chronic Pain Groups

      The operational definition of chronic pain in the HICP and the CPWL groups involved the PAIN_2 question in the AFD: “In the past 3 months, how often did you have pain? Would you say never, some days, most days, or every day?” (Table 1). HICP was defined as pain on most days or every day in the previous 3 months accompanied by ≥1 activity limitation/participation restriction from among 8 relevant questions from the AFD, whereas CPWL was operationally defined as pain experienced on most days or every day in the previous 3 months without activity limitations/participation restrictions. The 8 items assessed the respondents’ capacity (ie, do the activity, don't do the activity, unable to do the activity) to engage in the following activities: 1) working outside the home to earn an income, 2) going to school or achieving your education goals, 3) participating in leisure or social activities, 4) getting out with friends or family, 5) doing household chores such as cooking and cleaning, 6) using transportation to get to places you want to go, 7) participating in religious activities, and 8) participating in community gatherings (Table 1). Individuals were considered to have an activity limitations/participation restriction if they indicated that they were unable to do ≥1 of the activities. The total population incorporates those with CPWL, HICP, and those without pain on most days/every day in the previous 3 months.

      Statistical Analysis

      All analyses were performed using the integrated complex samples analysis procedures in the SPSS software package (SPSS v. 22; IBM, Armonk, NY). Responses to questions from the Sample Adult core and the AFD were merged using the sample weighting variable WTFA-AFD (from the 2011 AFD data file) as well as the STRAT_P and PSU_P variables (from the 2011 Sample Adult core), accounting for stratification and clustering, respectively. The merged datasets represent a weighted population size of approximately 220.3 million noninstitutionalized adults. Descriptive statistics (mean ± standard error) were used to characterize groups according to demographic and psychosocial variables. In most cases, data are presented as a percent of the specified group representing the variable of interest, extracted from cross-tabulation tables. Given that odds ratios (ORs) reflect the effect of a putative predictor on the likelihood that a specified outcome will occur, binomial logistic regression was used to determine ORs for various outcomes. To adjust for potential confounding, we controlled for demographic variables such as age, sex, ethnicity, marital status, region, and BMI in all cases. In addition, we also controlled for chronic health conditions where indicated. Owing to the categorical nature of NHIS items addressing sex, ethnicity, marital status, and region, they were included into the logistic regression analysis as categorical covariates. Given that age and BMI were reported in the NHIS as continuous variables (ie, whole numbers between a specified range), these factors were included into the logistic regression analysis as continuous factors, with the exception of the demographic analysis illustrated in Table 2, where age and BMI were treated as categorical factors. The reference categories for sex, ethnicity, marital status, and region were male, white, married/living with partner, and Northeast, respectively. For the chronic health condition analyses indicated in Table 3, each health condition–related OR also controlled for the remaining 14 chronic health conditions. In these cases, the reference category was set to no (ie, never been told by a doctor or health professional that I have the condition). Occasionally, a survey respondent failed to answer a given question, accounting for no more than 1 or 2 individuals or less per category (ie, total population/HICP/CPWL). As such, these responses were removed from the analysis of that question.
      Table 2Sociodemographic Distribution of the CPWL and Populations Compared With the Total Adult U.S. Population
      Total Adult PopulationCPWLHICP
      Estimated Number (millions)Prevalence, % (SE)Estimated Number (millions)Prevalence, % (SE)Percentage Within Population, % (SE)Estimated Number (millions)Prevalence, % (SE)Percentage Within Population, % (SE)OR (95% CI) for Factor if CPWL/HICP vs No Pain
      Complex samples logistic regression model included sex, age, ethnicity, education, marital status, BMI and region.
      OR (95% CI) for Factor if HICP vs CPWL
      Complex samples logistic regression model included sex, age, ethnicity, education, marital status, BMI and region.
      Total adult population220.310029.913.6 (0.4)10010.64.8 (0.2)100N/AN/A
      Sex
       Male106.748.4 (0.5)13.76.2 (0.3)45.7 (1.4)4.62.1 (0.2)43.3 (2.0)RCRC
       Female113.651.6 (0.5)16.37.4 (0.3)54.3 (1.4)6.02.7 (0.1)56.7 (2.0)1.16 (1.03–1.30)0.98 (0.80–1.22)
      Age, y
       18–2428.613.0 (0.4)1.60.7 (0.1)5.4 (0.7)0.30.1 (0.1)2.6 (0.9)RCRC
       25–4478.535.6 (0.5)8.84.00.2)29.3 (1.3)1.50.7 (0.1)14.6 (1.4)2.17 (1.55–3.03)2.66 (1.26–5.63)
       45–6476.334.6 (0.5)12.75.8 (0.3)42.6 (1.4)5.92.7 (0.2)55.8 (2.2)4.21 (3.03–5.85)7.29 (3.56–14.95)
       ≥6536.816.7 (0.4)6.83.1 (0.1)22.8 (1.0)2.91.3 (0.1)27.1 (1.9)4.22 (3.01–5.92)6.04 (2.90–12.58)
      Ethnicity
       White150.368.3 (0.5)23.810.8 (0.3)79.6 (1.0)7.63.5 (0.2)71.8 (1.7)RCRC
       Black/African American25.511.6 (0.4)2.51.1 (0.1)8.3 (0.7)1.70.8 (0.1)15.6 (1.3)0.68 (0.58–0.81)1.76 (1.29–2.39)
       Native American1.40.7 (0.1)0.20.1 (<0.1)0.7 (0.2)0.20.1 (<0.1)1.7 (0.4)1.28 (0.84–1.96)2.86 (1.39–5.90)
       Asian Indian2.21.0 (0.1)<0.1<0.1 (<0.1)0.3 (0.1)<0.1<0.1 (<0.1)0.3 (0.3)0.34 (0.14–0.80)3.61 (0.85–15.31)
       Asian8.23.7 (0.2)0.50.2 (<0.1)1.6 (0.3)<0.1<0.1 (<0.1)0.8 (0.2)0.35 (0.25–0.50)0.59 (0.28–1.21)
       Hispanic31.614.3 (0.4)2.71.2 (0.1)9.0 (0.7)1.00.5 (0.1)9.5 (1.1)0.50 (0.42–0.58)1.20 (0.81–1.78)
       Multiple/unspecified1.10.5 (0.1)0.20.1 (<0.1)0.6 (0.2)<0.1<0.1 (<0.1)0.3 (0.2)1.13 (0.56–2.29)0.80 (0.21–3.06)
      Education
       Up to grade 12, no diploma31.114.10.4)4.52.1 (0.1)15.1 (0.9)3.01.4 (0.1)28.2 (1.9)2.25 (1.85–2.73)2.50 (1.75–3.56)
       High School diploma101.646.1 (0.6)15.16.9 (0.3)50.5 (1.4)5.62.6 (0.1)52.9 (2.0)1.58 (1.37–1.81)1.55 (1.17–2.06)
       Bachelor's/associate's degree65.029.5 (0.5)8.03.6 (0.2)26.7 (1.2)1.70.8 (0.1)16.1 (1.5)RCRC
       Master's/doctorate/professional degree21.49.7 (0.3)2.21.0 (0.1)7.3 (0.7)0.30.1 (<0.1)2.5 (0.6)0.67 (0.53–0.86)0.55 (0.31–0.98)
       Unknown1.20.5 0.1)0.10.1 (<0.1)0.4 (0.2)<0.1<0.1 (<0.1)0.3 (0.2)1.05 (0.38–2.87)0.76 (0.15–3.86)
      Marital status
       Married/living with partner131.959.9 (0.5)19.38.8 (0.3)64.5 (1.2)5.52.5 (0.2)51.6 (2.2)RCRC
       Divorced/separated27.912.7 (0.3)4.82.2 (0.1)16.0 (0.9)2.61.2 (0.1)24.1 (1.7)1.34 (1.17–1.54)1.63 (1.23–2.17)
       Widowed12.45.6 (0.2)2.31.0 (0.1)7.7 (0.6)1.30.6 (0.1)11.9 (1.2)1.10 (0.92–1.32)1.49 (1.00–2.22)
       Never married47.721.7 (0.4)3.51.6 (0.1)11.7 (0.8)1.30.6 (0.1)12.2 (1.4)0.77 (0.64–0.93)1.73 (1.23–2.45)
       Unknown0.30.1 (<0.1)<0.1<0.1 (<0.1)0.1 (0.1)<0.1<0.1 (<0.1)0.2 (0.1)0.78 (0.26–2.32)0.71 (0.09–5.61)
      BMI
       Normal (<24.9)71.532.5 (0.5)7.63.5 (0.2)25.4 (1.2)2.21.0 (0.1)20.9 (1.7)RCRC
       Overweight (25.0–29.9)75.934.5 (0.5)9.74.4 (0.2)32.6 (1.2)3.41.5 (0.1)31.6 (2.1)1.09 (0.93–1.27)0.94 (0.68–1.30)
       Obese (≥30)72.933.1 (0.5)12.65.7 (0.2)42.0 (1.2)5.12.3 (0.1)47.5 (2.1)1.67 (1.45–1.92)1.14 (0.87–1.51)
      Region
       Northeast38.217.4 (0.4)5.02.3 (0.2)16.6 (1.2)1.70.8 (0.1)16.1 (1.6)RCRC
       West52.223.7 (0.5)6.93.1 (0.2)23.1 (1.1)1.90.9 (0.1)17.7 (1.5)1.11 (0.92–1.33)1.19 (0.79–1.79)
       Midwest51.723.5 (0.6)7.23.3 (0.2)24.2 (1.3)2.71.2 (0.1)25.7 (2.0)1.05 (0.86–1.28)1.15 (0.79–1.66)
       South78.135.5 (0.6)10.84.9 (0.2)36.0 (1.3)4.32.0 (0.1)40.4 (2.3)1.12 (0.94–1.32)0.89 (0.62–1.28)
      Abbreviations: SE, standard error; N/A, not applicable; RC, reference category for each demographic factor.
      low asterisk Complex samples logistic regression model included sex, age, ethnicity, education, marital status, BMI and region.
      Table 3Prevalence of Comorbid Health Conditions and ORs for Activity Limitations/Participation Restrictions
      Total Adult PopulationCPWLHICP
      OR (95% CI) for Activity Limitations in Total Adult Population
      Complex samples logistic regression model included sex, age, ethnicity, education, marital status, BMI, and region, as well as all other chronic health conditions.
      Estimated Number (millions)Prevalence, % (SE)Estimated Number (millions)Percentage Within Population (SE)Estimated Number (millions)Percentage Within Population (SE)OR (95% CI) for Health Condition if HICP vs CPWL
      Complex samples logistic regression model included sex, age, ethnicity, education, marital status, BMI, and region, as well as all other chronic health conditions.
      Chronic pain (pain most/every day)4.23 (3.55–5.03)40.618.4 (0.4)N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
      Weak/failing kidneys3.64 (2.46–5.39)4.42.0 (0.1)1.13.6 (0.5)1.110.5 (1.3)1.66 (1.05–2.61)
      Stroke3.04 (2.17–4.26)5.82.7 (0.2)1.23.9 (0.5)1.312.7 (1.5)2.17 (1.40–3.36)
      Arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia2.19 (1.86–2.59)49.522.5 (0.4)15.250.8 (1.4)7.368.3 (1.9)1.54 (1.20–1.98)
      Emphysema2.05 (1.32–3.18)4.11.8 (0.1)1.03.3 (0.5)1.211.3 (1.3)1.71 (1.04–2.81)
      Diabetes1.70 (1.37–2.12)20.09.1 (0.3)4.113.7 (0.9)3.027.7 (1.7)1.49 (1.12–1.98)
      Chronic bronchitis1.52 (1.11–2.10)9.34.2 (0.2)2.27.5 (0.8)1.715.7 (1.4)1.57 (1.11–2.21)
      Heart condition/disease1.40 (1.09–1.80)16.37.4 (0.3)3.812.7 (0.9)2.220.3 (1.8)1.20 (0.85–1.69)
      Asthma1.35 (1.10–1.65)27.612.5 (0.3)4.816.2 (0.9)2.725.0 (1.8)1.39 (1.04–1.86)
      Liver condition1.35 (0.78–2.33)2.81.3 (0.1)0.72.5 (0.4)0.76.1 (0.9)1.70 (1.03–2.83)
      Cancer/other malignancy1.29 (1.01–1.66)18.18.2 (0.3)3.912.9 (0.9)1.918.1 (1.5)1.23 (0.91–1.66)
      Obese (BMI ≥ 30)1.23 (1.05–1.44)72.933.1 (0.5)12.642.0 (1.2)5.147.5 (2.1)1.06 (0.84–1.32)
      Coronary heart disease1.22 (0.84–1.77)10.04.5 (0.2)2.48.2 (0.7)1.514.1 (1.5)0.97 (0.63–1.50)
      Hypertension1.20 (1.00–1.44)64.129.1 (0.4)13.545.1 (1.3)6.560.6 (2.1)1.09 (0.86–1.37)
      Heart attack1.06 (0.68–1.64)7.33.3 (0.2)1.75.6 (0.5)1.09.9 (1.2)0.94 (0.61–1.44)
      Angina pectoris0.77 (0.47–1.28)4.52.1 (0.1)1.23.8 (0.5)0.87.2 (1.2)0.99 (0.57–1.72)
      Abbreviations: SE, standard error; N/A, not applicable.
      low asterisk Complex samples logistic regression model included sex, age, ethnicity, education, marital status, BMI, and region, as well as all other chronic health conditions.

      Results

      Prevalence of Chronic Pain and HICP in the U.S. Adult Population

      In 2011, 4.8% of the United States adult population (10.6 million persons) met our criteria for HICP defined as pain present on most days or every day over the previous 3 months and having ≥1 major activity limitation/participation restriction (Table 2). Almost 3 times as many individuals—29.9 million individuals or 13.6% of the adult population—experienced chronic pain without activity limitations/participation restrictions (CPWL). Taken together, approximately 18.4% of the adult population, or >40 million adults, reported experiencing pain on most days or every day in the previous 3 months.

      Demographic Profile

      The demographic profile of the CPWL and HICP populations is shown in Table 2. Compared with those without pain, individuals with chronic pain (ie, CPWL and HICP together) were more likely to be female (OR = 1.16, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.03–1.30). Those with HICP, however, were no more likely to be female than those with CPWL (OR = 0.98, 95% CI = 0.80–1.22). Advancing age increased the likelihood of having chronic pain (compared with no pain) and HICP (compared with CPWL). This effect is particularly evident in individuals >45 years of age. Although individuals of white ethnicity comprised the majority of the total population as well as the chronic pain population, those of African American (OR = 1.76, 95% CI = 1.29–2.39), native American (OR = 2.86, 95% CI = 1.39–5.90), and Asian Indian (OR = 3.61, 95% CI = 0.85–15.31) descent had an increased likelihood of HICP compared with CPWL. In terms of education, those with chronic pain (vs no pain) and HICP (vs CPWL) were more likely to have achieved no more than a high school diploma. Although the majority of those in the total population, as well as those with CPWL and HICP, were married or living with a partner, those who were divorced/separated, widowed, or never married had an increased likelihood of HICP. Obesity increased the likelihood of experiencing chronic pain (OR = 1.67, 95% CI = 1.45–1.92); however, obesity did not increase the likelihood of HICP compared with CPWL (OR = 1.14, 95% CI = 0.87–1.51). Compared with those living in the Northeast, those from other regions were no more likely to have chronic pain or HICP. Overall, the HICP population was more likely >45 years of age, predominantly white (but with a larger proportion of African Americans, native Americans, and Asian Indians vs the CPWL population), of lower educational level, and have higher rates of divorce/separation.

      Comorbid Chronic Health Conditions

      The HICP population bore a substantially greater illness burden than the CPWL population. For each of 15 chronic health conditions (Table 3), a greater proportion of the HICP population reported having been told by a doctor or other health professional that they had the health condition compared with the CPWL population. Moreover, individuals with HICP were more likely than the CPWL population to have emphysema, a liver condition, weak/failing kidneys, chronic bronchitis, arthritis, diabetes, or asthma, or to have had a stroke (Table 3). Compared with the CPWL population, those with HICP were about as likely to report having had cancer, a heart condition, coronary heart disease, hypertension, a heart attack, or angina, or to be obese (Table 3).
      Considering that the defining characteristics of the HICP population were chronic pain with activity limitations/participation restrictions, we assessed whether activity limitations/participation restrictions were explained by comorbid chronic health conditions. Controlling for demographic variables as well as other chronic health conditions, the OR for the presence of limitations in those with no pain/occasional pain versus those with pain on most days or every day was 4.23 (95% CI = 3.55–5.03), indicating that regardless of the presence of other chronic health conditions, individuals experiencing frequent pain were much more likely to have limitations than those with no/occasional pain. For added perspective, the OR for activity limitations/participation restrictions in those reporting frequent pain was compared with those reporting chronic health problems; the OR for the presence of activity limitations/participation restrictions in those with chronic pain (OR = 4.23, 95% CI = 3.55–5.03) was greater than the likelihood of activity limitations/participation restrictions in all other chronic health conditions, including those reporting weak/failing kidneys (OR = 3.64, 95% CI = 2.46–5.39) or a stroke (OR = 3.04, 95% CI = 2.17–4.26), among others (Table 3). Taken together, those with chronic pain were more likely to have activity limitations/participation restrictions than those with other chronic health conditions.

      Pain Characteristics

      The operational definitions of both CPWL and HICP are based on pain frequency over the previous 3 months. However, considering the multidimensional nature of chronic pain, we also explored pain intensity and the number of bodily locations of pain. Table 4 indicates the proportion of the HICP and CPWL populations in the 3 categories defined by pain intensity (ie, a little pain, in between a little and a lot, a lot of pain). The HICP population was much more likely to report moderate and severe pain than the CPWL population (OR = 2.19, 95% CI = 1.59–3.01 and OR = 4.72, 95% CI = 3.40–6.55, respectively). Respondents were also asked about pain in 6 bodily regions including joint(s), low back, legs, neck, jaw/ear, and migraine/severe headache. The HICP population was more likely than the CPWL population to report severe headache/migraine and pain in the legs, low back, and joints but was equally likely to report pain in the neck or face. Those with HICP were about as likely as the CPWL population to report pain in 1 to 3 locations (OR = 0.97, 95% CI = 0.50–1.88) but somewhat more likely to report pain in 4 to 6 locations (OR = 1.79, 95% CI = 0.96–3.33; Table 4). A proportion of both the CPWL and the HICP populations reported pain that did not refer to any of the 6 listed locations, likely owing to the limited number of possible pain locations available in the survey (ie, no item referencing pain of cutaneous or visceral origin). These individuals were classified as having 0 pain locations (ie, pain location not specified). Overall, the HICP population carries a more severe pain burden than those with CPWL.
      Table 4Pain Characteristics in the CPWL and HICP Populations
      CPWLHICP
      Pain IntensityEstimated Number (millions)Prevalence, % (SE)Estimated Number (millions)Prevalence, % (SE)OR (95% CI) for Pain Factor if HICP vs CPWL
      Complex samples logistic regression model included sex, age, ethnicity, education, marital status, BMI, and region.
       A little3.622.4 (1.7)0.67.3 (1.2)RC
       In between6.942.6 (1.8)2.734.6 (2.4)2.19 (1.59–3.01)
       A lot5.634.7 (1.7)4.657.9 (2.5)4.72 (3.40–6.55)
      Pain locations
       Severe headache/migraine8.327.8 (1.1)4.441.1 (2.0)2.19 (1.64–2.92)
       Leg to below knees8.645.4 (1.7)5.164.2 (2.4)1.80 (1.39–2.34)
       Low back19.063.5 (1.3)7.974.5 (1.8)1.67 (1.34–2.08)
       Joints21.070.2 (1.3)8.983.7 (1.9)1.66 (1.14–2.42)
       Neck11.538.3 (1.3)5.451.0 (2.4)1.30 (0.98–1.72)
       Jaw muscle/joint3.311.0 (0.8)2.018.5 (1.5)1.08 (0.79–1.47)
      No. of pain locations
       0 (pain location not specified)2.37.7 (0.6)0.54.5 (1.1)RC
       1–313.846.1 (1.4)3.230.2 (1.9)0.97 (0.50–1.88)
       4–613.846.2 (1.3)7.065.4 (2.0)1.79 (0.96–3.33)
      Abbreviations: SE, standard error; RC, reference category.
      low asterisk Complex samples logistic regression model included sex, age, ethnicity, education, marital status, BMI, and region.

      Activity Limitations/Participation Restrictions

      Activity limitations/participation restrictions were based on the respondent's engaging in 8 major life activities (Table 5). Most individuals in the HICP population reported being unable to work outside the home (83.2 ± 1.7%), whereas substantial proportions of the HICP population also reported being unable to go to school or to attain educational goals (42.0 ± 2.1%), engage in leisure or social activities (27.1 ± 1.9%), and perform household chores (25.3 ± 1.9%), among others. In terms of the number of limitations/restrictions per individual, 32.1 ± 2.0% reported having 2 or 3 limitations/restrictions and 22.8 ± 1.8% reported having ≥4 limitations/restrictions (Table 5). Some of the limitations/restrictions may not be mutually exclusive (ie, leisure/social activities, friend/family outings, and community activities), potentially increasing the estimated number of limitations/restrictions per individual. Taken together, almost 85% of the HICP population was unable to work, and approximately 55% of the HICP population reported having ≥2 major activity limitations/participation restrictions in their daily life.
      Table 5Activity Limitations/Participation Restrictions in the HICP Population
      HICP
      Activity Limitations (unable to do the activity)Estimated Number (millions)Prevalence, % (SE)
       Religious activities1.312.2 (1.4)
       Community activities1.817.1 (1.4)
       Friend/family outings2.220.4 (1.7)
       Using transport2.624.9 (1.9)
       Household chores2.725.3 (1.9)
       Leisure/social activities2.927.1 (1.9)
       Educational goals4.542.0 (2.1)
       Work outside home8.983.2 (1.7)
      No. of activity limitations
       14.845.1 (2.1)
       2–33.432.1 (2.0)
       ≥42.422.8 (1.8)
      Abbreviation: SE, standard error.

      Mental Health, Fatigue, and Cognitive Impairment

      Individuals with HICP had a much greater likelihood to report daily or weekly depression than those with CPWL (43.7 ± 2.2% vs 18.0 ± 1.0%, respectively; OR = 3.85, 95% CI = 3.01–4.93). Only 8.9% of the total population experienced daily/weekly depression (Table 6). Likewise, the HICP population was also much more likely to be taking antidepressant medication than those with CPWL (33.3 ± 1.7% vs 14.8 ± 1.0%, respectively; OR = 3.13, 95% CI = 2.48–3.95). Similarly, the HICP population was more likely to experience daily or weekly anxiety (54.7 ± 2.1% vs 30.6 ± 1.2%, respectively; OR = 3.30, 95% CI = 2.62–4.15) and to take anxiety medications (36.8 ± 2.0% vs 15.7 ± 1.0%, respectively; OR = 3.41, 95% CI = 2.69–4.33) compared with the CPWL population. Those with HICP were also more likely than the CPWL to report fatigue on most days or every day (59.1 ± 2.1% vs 31.4 ± 1.2%, respectively; OR = 3.46, 95% CI = 2.76–4.33) and to have difficulty remembering/concentrating (47.6 ± 2.2% vs 20.8 ± 1.1%, respectively; OR = 3.18, 95% CI = 2.51–4.02; Table 6).
      Table 6Mental Health Status, General Health Status, and Health Care Use in the CPWL and HICP Populations
      Total Adult PopulationCPWLHICP
      Estimated Number (millions)Prevalence, % (SE)Estimated Number (millions)Percentage Within CPWL Population (SE)Estimated Number (millions)Percentage Within HICP Population (SE)OR (95% CI) for Health Factor if HICP vs CPWL
      Complex samples logistic regression model included sex, age, ethnicity, education, marital status, BMI, and region.
      Mental and cognitive health
       Depression (experienced daily/weekly)19.68.9 (0.3)5.418.0 (1.0)4.643.7 (2.2)3.85 (3.01–4.93)
       Taking medication for depression18.48.3 (0.3)4.414.8 (1.0)3.533.3 (1.7)3.13 (2.48–3.95)
       Anxiety (experienced daily/weekly)40.618.4 (0.4)9.230.6 (1.2)5.854.7 (2.1)3.30 (2.62–4.15)
       Taking medication for anxiety20.59.3 (0.3)4.715.7 (1.0)3.936.8 (2.0)3.41 (2.69–4.33)
       Fatigue (experienced most/every day)30.713.9 (0.3)9.431.4 (1.2)6.359.1 (2.1)3.46 (2.76–4.33)
       Cognitive difficulty (remembering/concentrating)26.612.1 (0.3)6.220.8 (1.1)5.147.6 (2.2)3.18 (2.51–4.02)
      Health status compared with 12 months ago
       Better38.917.6 (0.4)5.317.8 (1.1)1.514.1 (1.6)1.18 (0.86–1.61)
       Same163.174.0 (0.4)19.364.4 (1.3)5.046.7 (2.2)RC
       Worse18.38.3 (0.3)5.317.7 (1.0)4.239.2 (2.0)2.92 (2.30–3.70)
      Current health status
       Excellent64.729.4 (0.4)4.013.4 (0.9)0.32.5 (0.7)0.41 (0.22–0.76)
       Very good69.531.5 (0.5)8.127.2 (1.2)0.76.3 (1.0)0.48 (0.32–0.74)
       Good57.826.3 (0.4)10.635.3 (1.2)2.119.4 (1.6)RC
       Fair21.69.8 (0.3)5.719.1 (1.0)4.643.6 (2.0)3.83 (2.92–5.04)
       Poor6.42.9 (0.2)1.44.8 (0.5)3.028.0 (1.8)9.51 (6.71–13.47)
      Difficulty with self-care
       No difficulty212.296.3 (0.228.695.7 (0.5)7.166.6 (2.0)0.13 (0.09–0.18)
       Some difficulty6.12.8 (0.2)1.13.8 (0.5)2.523.5 (1.7)RC
       A lot of difficulty1.10.5 (0.1)0.10.4 (0.2)0.65.8 (0.9)1.86 (0.77–4.47)
       Unable0.90.4 (0.1)<0.10.1 (<0.1)0.44.0 (1.0)11.99 (2.74–52.46)
       Had ≥11 bed days in the past 12 months12.917.3 (0.6)3.424.6 (1.7)4.164.9 (2.5)5.03 (3.96–6.38)
      Health care use
       Health professional consultations, past 12 months
        General doctor147.266.8 (0.5)23.578.4 (1.1)9.286.4 (1.6)1.52 (1.10–2.09)
        Medical specialist59.627.0 (0.5)13.645.3 (1.4)6.358.9 (2.2)1.74 (1.41–2.15)
        Physical/occupational therapist etc19.28.7 (0.3)5.217.3 (0.9)3.129.2 (1.8)2.19 (1.74–2.75)
        Mental health professional17.68.0 (0.3)3.511.5 (0.9)2.826.2 (1.7)3.39 (2.61–4.40)
       No. of surgical procedures, past 12 months
        None191.687.0 (0.3)23.679.0 (1.1)7.671.4 (2.0)0.89 (0.68–1.16)
        122.810.4 (0.3)5.117.1 (1.0)1.918.0 (1.6)RC
        ≥25.82.7 (0.2)1.23.9 (0.5)1.110.7 (1.4)2.93 (1.71–5.04)
       No. of times in emergency room/emergency department, past 12 months
        None175.679.8 (0.4)21.170.5 (1.3)5.653.0 (2.1)0.80 (0.61–1.07)
        128.312.9 (0.3)5.317.6 (1.1)1.816.7 (1.5)RC
        ≥216.37.4 (0.3)3.611.9 (0.9)3.230.3 (2.0)2.77 (2.01–3.81)
      Received home care from health professional, past 12 months5.02.3 (0.1)0.92.9 (0.4)1.615.2 (1.8)5.14 (3.30–7.99)
      Abbreviations: SE, standard error; RC, reference category.
      low asterisk Complex samples logistic regression model included sex, age, ethnicity, education, marital status, BMI, and region.

      Health Status

      Compared with the CPWL population, the HICP population had a greater likelihood of reporting worsening health over the previous 12 months (OR = 2.92, 95% CI = 2.30–3.70; Table 6). Moreover, the HICP population was less likely to report their current health status as very good or excellent, and much more likely to report it as fair or poor (Table 6). Although most of the CPWL and the total populations reported no difficulties with self-care, approximately 33% of the HICP population reported at least some difficulty with self-care (Table 6). Indeed, the HICP population was much more likely to report being unable to maintain self-care than the CPWL population (OR = 11.99, 95% CI = 2.74–52.46). The HICP population had a much greater likelihood of spending ≥11 days in bed over the previous 12 months compared with the CPWL population (64.9% vs 24.6%, respectively; OR = 5.03, 95% CI = 3.96–6.38; Table 6).

      Health Care Use

      Health care use includes services for all health conditions, including pain. The HICP population was more likely to consult health professionals including general doctors, specialists, physical/occupational therapists, and mental health professionals (Table 6). Although the majority of all 3 populations reported no surgical procedures and no emergency room visits in the previous 12 months (Table 6), a greater portion of the HICP population reported ≥2 surgical procedures compared with the CPWL group (10.7% vs 3.9%, respectively; OR = 2.93, 95% CI = 1.71–5.04) and ≥2 emergency room visits over the previous 12 months (30.3% vs 11.9%, respectively; OR = 2.77, 95% CI = 2.01–3.81). Finally, whereas only 2.3% and 2.9% of the total adult and CPWL populations, respectively, received home care in the previous 12 months, >15% of the HICP population required home care (Table 6). As such, the HICP population was much more likely than the CPWL population to have received home care from a health professional in the previous year (OR = 5.14, 95% CI = 3.30–7.99).

      Discussion

      As evidenced by its nomenclature, chronic pain has traditionally been defined by pain duration.
      • Borenstein D
      • Altman R
      • Bello A
      • Chatham W
      • Clauw D
      • Crofford L
      • Croft J
      • Hassett A
      • Kozin F
      • Pisetsky D
      • Rich-Ardson J
      • Schanberg L
      • Starz T
      • Witter J
      Report of the American College of Rheumatology Pain Management Task Force.
      Institute of Medicine (U.S.) Committee on Advancing Pain Research Care and Education
      Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research.
      ,
      • Johannes CB
      • Le TK
      • Zhou XL
      • Johnston JA
      • Dworkin RH
      The prevalence of chronic pain in United States adults: Results of an Internet-based survey.
      • Katz J
      • Rosenbloom BN
      • Fashler S
      Chronic pain, psychopathology, and DSM-5 somatic symptom disorder.
      ,
      • Kennedy J
      • Roll JM
      • Schraudner T
      • Murphy S
      • McPherson S
      Prevalence of persistent pain in the US adult population: New data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey.
      National Institutes of Health
      Chronic pain: Symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
      ,
      • Treede RD
      • Rief W
      • Barke A
      • Aziz Q
      • Bennett MI
      • Benoliel R
      • Cohen M
      • Evers S
      • Finnerup NB
      • First MB
      • Giamberardino MA
      • Kaasa S
      • Kosek E
      • Lavand'homme P
      • Nicholas M
      • Perrot S
      • Scholz J
      • Schug S
      • Smith BH
      • Svensson P
      • Vlaeyen JWS
      • Wang SJ
      A classification of chronic pain for ICD-11.
      • Tsang A
      • Von Korff M
      • Lee S
      • Alonso J
      • Karam E
      • Angermeyer MC
      • Borges GLG
      • Bromet EJ
      • de Girolamo G
      • de Graaf R
      • Gureje O
      • Lepine JP
      • Haro JM
      • Levinson D
      • Browne MAO
      • Posada-Villa J
      • Seedat S
      • Watanabe M
      Common chronic pain conditions in developed and developing countries: Gender and age differences and comorbidity with depression-anxiety disorders.
      Using this approach, our prevalence estimate of the overall chronic pain population is approximately 18.4% of the adult population, or >40 million people. Although this estimate is similar to some estimates,
      • Johannes CB
      • Le TK
      • Zhou XL
      • Johnston JA
      • Dworkin RH
      The prevalence of chronic pain in United States adults: Results of an Internet-based survey.
      • Kennedy J
      • Roll JM
      • Schraudner T
      • Murphy S
      • McPherson S
      Prevalence of persistent pain in the US adult population: New data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey.
      ,
      • Nahin RL
      Estimates of pain prevalence and severity in adults: United States, 2012.
      it is much lower than others,
      Institute of Medicine (U.S.) Committee on Advancing Pain Research Care and Education
      Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research.
      • Tsang A
      • Von Korff M
      • Lee S
      • Alonso J
      • Karam E
      • Angermeyer MC
      • Borges GLG
      • Bromet EJ
      • de Girolamo G
      • de Graaf R
      • Gureje O
      • Lepine JP
      • Haro JM
      • Levinson D
      • Browne MAO
      • Posada-Villa J
      • Seedat S
      • Watanabe M
      Common chronic pain conditions in developed and developing countries: Gender and age differences and comorbidity with depression-anxiety disorders.
      likely owing to methodological aspects of data collection in those studies as well as how chronic pain was operationalized. More important, whereas pain enduring ≥3 months certainly constitutes a significant burden to the sufferer, not everyone is impacted equally.
      • Dunn KM
      • Croft PR
      • Main CJ
      • Von Korff M
      A prognostic approach to defining chronic pain: Replication in a UK primary care low back pain population.
      ,
      • Von Korff M
      Assessment of chronic pain in epidemiological and health services research.
      • Von Korff M
      • Dunn KM
      Chronic pain reconsidered.
      • Von Korff M
      • Dworkin SF
      • Leresche L
      Graded chronic pain status—An epidemiologic evaluation.
      • Von Korff M
      • Jensen MP
      • Karoly P
      Assessing global pain severity by self-report in clinical and health services research.
      • Von Korff M
      • Miglioretti DL
      A prognostic approach to defining chronic pain.
      • Von Korff M
      • Ormel J
      • Keefe FJ
      • Dworkin SF
      Grading the severity of chronic pain.
      • Von Korff M
      • Scher AI
      • Helmick C
      • Carter-Pokras O
      • Dodick DW
      • Goulet J
      • Hamill-Ruth R
      • LeResche L
      • Porter L
      • Tait R
      • Terman G
      • Veasley C
      • Mackey S
      United States National Pain Strategy for population research: Concepts, definitions, and pilot data.
      To address this variability in outcomes, some studies have further stratified the chronic pain population according to pain severity, where greater severity is generally associated with poorer outcomes.
      • Currie SR
      • Wang J
      Chronic back pain and major depression in the general Canadian population.
      • Dunn KM
      • Jordan K
      • Croft PR
      Characterizing the course of low back pain: A latent class analysis.
      ,
      • McGorry RW
      • Webster BS
      • Snook SH
      • Hsiang SM
      The relation between pain intensity, disability, and the episodic nature of chronic and recurrent low back pain.
      • Nahin RL
      Estimates of pain prevalence and severity in adults: United States, 2012.
      • Nahin RL
      Categorizing the severity of pain using questions from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey.
      However, it has been long agreed that several other factors interact with pain characteristics to produce negative outcomes, including affective distress, life control, and, crucially, functional disability.
      • Keefe FJ
      • Gil KM
      Behavioral concepts in the analysis of chronic pain syndromes.
      • Turk DC
      • Rudy TE
      Towards a comprehensive assessment of chronic pain patients.
      ,
      • Turk DC
      • Rudy TE
      Toward an empirically derived taxonomy of chronic pain patients: Integration of psychological assessment data.
      • Von Korff M
      • Dunn KM
      Chronic pain reconsidered.
      ,
      • Von Korff M
      • Miglioretti DL
      A prognostic approach to defining chronic pain.
      • Von Korff M
      • Ormel J
      • Keefe FJ
      • Dworkin SF
      Grading the severity of chronic pain.
      As proposed in the U.S. National Pain Strategy,
      National Pain Strategy
      A comprehensive population health-level strategy for pain.
      the inclusion of disability (ie, activity limitations/participation restrictions) into the standard chronological definition of chronic pain is meant to differentiate those with debilitating chronic pain from those with less impactful chronic pain. Responding to the National Pain Strategy's call for better information on the prevalence and impact of chronic pain in the U.S. population, we used nationally representative data to show that chronic pain (ie, pain on most days or every day over the previous 3 months) is strongly associated with an elevated risk of developing activity limitations/participation restrictions such as the inability to work for a living; go to school; or engage in social, community or religious activities. Our use of general measures of disability not related to pain rather than pain-related interference constitutes an important advancement over previous work. Here, respondents were simply asked about their capacity to engage in certain activities rather than the degree to which pain interferes with these tasks. By not requiring an individual with severe pain to distinguish the increased effort required to carry out important life activities from the actual incapacity to participate in these activities, our findings reflect a more clinically relevant assessment of impact. Moreover, this approach also allows us to directly compare the impact of chronic pain with the impacts of several other chronic health conditions, including stroke, kidney failure, cancer, and heart disease. We not only demonstrate that individuals with chronic pain are much more likely to have disabilities than those without pain on most days or every day but also show that disability is more likely in the chronic pain population than in any other chronic health condition assessed, including stroke, kidney failure, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. A potential limitation of using general disability questions rather than more specific pain-related interference questions may be that the disability is owing to other chronic health conditions rather than pain. However, our analyses controlled for the presence of >15 chronic health conditions, strongly suggesting that general disability questions may indeed reflect the impact of chronic pain.
      In 2011, approximately one-quarter of the overall chronic pain population in the United States had HICP, or chronic pain with ≥1 activity limitation/participation restriction. The overall prevalence of HICP was 4.8%, or approximately 10.6 million adults. That this estimate is considerably lower than estimates based on pain interference
      • Janevic MR
      • McLaughlin SJ
      • Heapy AA
      • Thacker C
      • Piette JD
      Racial and socioeconomic disparities in disabling chronic pain: Findings from the Health and Retirement Study.
      • Von Korff M
      • Scher AI
      • Helmick C
      • Carter-Pokras O
      • Dodick DW
      • Goulet J
      • Hamill-Ruth R
      • LeResche L
      • Porter L
      • Tait R
      • Terman G
      • Veasley C
      • Mackey S
      United States National Pain Strategy for population research: Concepts, definitions, and pilot data.
      is not unexpected. Indeed, considering the stringent criteria for social role disability used in this assessment, our estimate reflects the most severely impacted portion of the chronic pain population. The application of more inclusive disability criteria would likely result in considerably higher prevalence estimates. Indeed, the CPWL population likely includes a sizable portion of individuals with varying degrees of social role disability who do not meet the stringent requirements used in this study. Although it is possible that some people with CPWL may progress to HICP at some point in the future, our approach seems to identify a smaller but more heavily burdened portion of the population. Compared with those with CPWL, the HICP population experienced poorer overall health outcomes. The most prevalent limitation in the HICP population was incapacity to work outside the home. The impacts of lost work are apparent both for the individual (ie, loss of self-worth, income, and lower quality of life), as well as for society (ie, lost productivity, higher health care expenditures). Accordingly, the HICP population also exhibited higher levels of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and cognitive difficulty than those with CPWL. The HICP population tended to report more severe pain, markedly poorer health outcomes, and dramatically more health care use than those with CPWL. Importantly, as discussed elsewhere in this article, the disabilities characterizing the HICP population seem to be more closely related to the frequent pain than the presence of other chronic health conditions. Nonetheless, a substantial proportion of the CPWL population also reported important pain and mental health impacts that should not be ignored; as discussed, CPWL may progress to HICP owing to ongoing pain duration or other factors.
      Although this study expands our understanding of the population health impact of CPWL and HICP, the cross-sectional nature of the survey precludes any assessment of potential contributory and/or causal factors to the development of CPWL or HICP. Furthermore, it is possible that alternative stratifications of some variables (ie, demographics, health-related outcomes) may have altered certain logistic regression outcomes. However, considering that our analytical strategy yielded prevalence estimates and other measures mirroring previous studies also using NHIS data, we are confident in the relevance of our findings. Other potential limitations include the external validity of our results. The results described in this study are based on a large-scale, nationally representative health survey. As such, they can be expected to accurately represent the U.S. noninstitutionalized, adult population. However, individuals such as veterans, the incarcerated, and those in residential care facilities are not represented. Although the prevalence estimates described herein do not include these populations, there is no reason to expect that the health-related impact of chronic pain would be any less burdensome. Although the survey response rates were high (81.6%), there is potential for selection bias. Indeed, prior research has found survey respondents to be somewhat healthier than nonrespondents.
      • Linden-Boström M
      • Persson C
      A selective follow-up study on a public health survey.
      • Van Loon A
      • Tijhuis M
      • Picavet H
      • Surtees P
      • Ormel J
      Survey non-response in the Netherlands: Effects on prevalence estimates and associations.
      However, nonresponse bias, whereby respondents fail to respond to some or all questions, is generally understood to be modest in face-to-face interview paradigms compared with other types of surveys.
      • Christensen A
      • Ekholm O
      • Glümer C
      • Juel K
      Effect of survey mode on response patterns: Comparison of face-to-face and self-administered modes in health surveys.
      Moreover, adjustments for nonresponse were made before the NHIS data were released and is reflected in the sample weights provided by NHIS.
      National Center for Health Statistics: National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) public use data release
      NHIS survey description.
      Overall, our findings demonstrate that defining HICP with binary questions addressing social role limitations without reference to pain identifies the most severely disabled segment of the chronic pain population, a segment representing >10 million American adults. As such, preventing the development of disability in this population should be a public health priority. Considering the heterogeneity in health-related and quality of life–related outcomes within the chronic pain population, stratification of the CPWL and HICP populations in clinical research and practice will lead to an improved understanding of the risk factors, causes, and consequences of chronic pain. Of significant interest would be risk factors associated with the transition from CPWL to HICP. In addition, considering the ongoing opioid epidemic, improved understanding of opioid use and analgesic efficacy in these populations is required. From a policy perspective, the incorporation of World Health Organization recommendations
      World Health Organization
      International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health.
      (ie, activity limitations/participation restrictions) into the stratification of chronic pain will permit greater cogency and relevance to potential legislative outcomes. In short, this article evaluates an assessment of HICP that does not refer to pain-related interference with life activities and highlights the role of disability as a key indicator of pain impact. This knowledge may not only serve to refine clinical research and streamline treatment, it also provides much-needed information to policymakers.

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