Over 10% US Adults Live With Pain Every Day

Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., M.P.H National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MarylandMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., M.P.H
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Nahin: In 2011 the Institute of Medicine published a blueprint for transforming pain care in the United States.  In this report the IOM noted the lack of a comprehensive picture of pain’s prevalence and severity in the U.S., and especially noted that lack of data examining racial and ethnic groups. The current analysis of data from the 2012 National Health Interview survey is a step toward addressing these deficiencies. 

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Nahin: The analyses found that an estimated 25.3 million adults (11.2 percent) had pain every day for the preceding 3 months. Nearly 40 million adults (17.6 percent) experience severe levels of pain.  Those with severe pain are also likely to have worse health status.  There were associations between pain severity and race, ethnicity, language preference, gender, and age. Women, older individuals, and non-Hispanics were more likely to report any pain, while Asians were less likely.  Minorities who did not choose to be interviewed in English are markedly less likely to report pain.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Nahin: This analysis adds valuable new scope to our understanding of pain and could inform the National Pain Strategy in the areas of population research and disparities.  Since language discordance between patient and healthcare providers has been identified as one source of health disparities, the present data should bring greater attention to this important issue for all physicians who treat pain in minorities groups.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Nahin: It may help shape future research, development, and targeting of effective pain interventions, including complementary health approaches.


Nahin RL. Estimates of pain prevalence and severity in adults: United States, 2012. Journal of Pain. 2015;16(8):769-780.

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Last Updated on August 14, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD