Chronic pain costs up to $635B a year

Economists at Johns Hopkins University have published a study in The Journal of Pain that calculates the annual costs of chronic pain. Researchers estimated that chronic pain costs up to $635 billion each year in the United States, which would make it more expensive than cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

The study’s authors defined pain sufferers as those whose pain or a disability limited their ability to work, or had arthritis or joint pain. The data only considered those ages 18 and older who were not institutionalized, were civilians, and were not caregivers who might miss work to care for a loved one.

The total was derived by assessing the incremental costs to health care that pain cause and the indirect costs caused by lowered worker productivity. The health care costs of people who reported chronic pain were then weighed against the costs of those who did not report it.

The study revealed that average health care costs are $4,475 each year. People who reported moderate pain had costs that were double that of the pain-free group, paying an additional $4,516 each year. Those reporting severe pain added an additional $3,210 to the costs of those who suffered moderate pain.

The authors of the study concluded that pain caused totals of $261 billion to $300 billion to health care, and an additional $299 billion to $334 billion in lost productivity.

— Breanna Hostbjor, The Bulletin