In 2008, according to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), about 100 million adults in the United States were affected by chronic pain, including joint pain or arthritis. For those who suffer pain, it limits their functional status and adversely impacts their quality of life. Pain is costly to the nation because it sometimes requires medical treatment. Pain also complicates medical care for other ailments, and it hinders one’s ability to work and function in society.
We estimated (1) the annual economic costs of pain in the United States and (2) the annual costs of treating patients with a primary diagnosis of pain.
We used the 2008 MEPS to compute the economic costs of pain in the United States. The analytic sample was restricted to adults, ages 18 years or older, who were civilians and noninstitutionalized. To compute the annual economic cost of pain, we defined persons with pain as those who reported having “severe pain,” “moderate pain,” “joint pain,” “arthritis,” or functional limitation that restricted their ability to work. To compute the cost of medical care for patients with a primary diagnosis of pain, we examined adults who were treated for headache, abdominal pain, chest pain, and back pain in 2008.
The annual economic costs of pain can be divided into two components: (1) the incremental costs of medical care due to pain, and (2) the indirect costs of pain due to lower economic productivity associated with lost wages, disability days, and fewer hours worked. We estimated the incremental and indirect costs using two-part models consisting of logistic regression models and generalized linear models. We also used different model specifications for sensitivity analysis and robustness. To compute the annual costs of medical treatment for patients with a primary diagnosis of pain, we summed the expenditures for medical encounters for headache, abdominal pain, chest pain, and back pain. We converted the cost estimates into 2010 dollars using the Medical Care Inflation Index of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for medical costs and the General CPI for wages.