Last Updated: 2008-05-01 18:30:02 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – The results of a telephone survey indicate that at any given time about 27% of people in the US are experiencing pain, according to a report in the May 3rd issue of The Lancet.

The results also suggest that pain is more common and more severe in individuals with lower income levels or less education.

Using diary-survey methods, Dr. Alan B. Krueger, from Princeton University in New Jersey, and Dr. Arthur A. Stone, from Stony Brook University in New York, attempted to contact 10,700 subjects through random-digit dialing. This resulted in 3982 individuals being surveyed for a response rate of 37%.

Diary information was collected for one 24-hour period and then, over the course of a day, the subjects were surveyed at three randomly selected 15-minute intervals regarding pain. The subjects were asked to rate the pain from 0 (none) to 6 (most severe pain).

Overall, 28.8% of men and 26.6% of women reported experiencing pain at the sampled times, the report indicates.

Pain severity generally increased with age, but leveled off between 45 and 75 years of age. No significant difference in pain severity was noted between men and women. In general, pain ratings fell as satisfaction with life or health increased.

Activities linked to higher than average pain ratings included lawn and garden work, caring for adults, involvement in medical care (for women), and sports and exercise (for men).

With some modifications, the authors’ methods "might be worth using for researchers planning an epidemiologic pain study in their home region," Dr. Juha H. O. Turunen, from the University of Kuopio in Finland, writes in a related editorial.

"I hope that more studies like this will help to find ways of identifying subgroups needing help with their pain, for example to enable pain sufferers to obtain quicker and easier access to multidisciplinary pain clinics."

Lancet 2008;371:1482-1483,1519-1525.

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