Chronic Pain Occurs More Among Poorly Educated Low-Income Americans, Study Reveals

Americans who are poorly educated low-income earners suffer the most when it comes to chronic pain. A new study has revealed the disparity between this demographic and the educated and wealthy is greater than previously thought.

A researcher studied 12 years of data from 19,000 subjects above the age of 51 and discovered that poorly educated low-income Americans suffer chronic pain 370 percent more than the rich. The study was published in the Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain.

Study author Hanna Grol-Prokopczyk of the University of Buffalo learned more adults reported chronic pain cases from 1998 to 2010 and that number is rising. Her study supports the 2011 findings from the National Academy of Science Health and Medicine Division, which stated that chronic pain is a bigger health problem in America than a combination of three diseases: heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

"I found that people with lower levels of education and wealth don't just have more pain, they also have more severe pain," Grol-Prokopczyk said in a press release. "I also looked at pain-related disability, meaning that pain is interfering with the ability to do normal work or household activities."

The researcher believed her latest report is a fitting reminder for health workers to consider all chronic pain cases as legitimate, especially for low-income earners. Grol-Prokopczyk also cited the need for more research in treatment options.

"There are a lot of pressures right now to reduce opioid prescription," the expert noted. "Health care providers shouldn't assume that someone who shows up in their office complaining of pain is just trying to get an opioid prescription."

As it is, an opioid is tagged as a high-risk option for treating chronic pain. Even with this knowledge, however, no other safer option has been provided by the health industry. "We need to invest in other effective treatments for chronic pain, and/or figure out how to prevent it in the first place," Grol-Prokopczyk said.

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