Less Income, More Pain?

Survey Shows Income and Education Are Factors in Your Pain Rating

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on May 01, 2008
From the WebMD Archives

May 1, 2008 -- If you think about your body right now, do you feel any pain? If so, you are apparently not alone.

A new study shows that more than a quarter of people interviewed said they felt some pain in a 24-hour period starting the day before.

Researchers interviewed 3,982 people about their activities during this time period. Then they randomly selected three 15-minute nonsleeping time periods and asked the participants what they were feeling with the previously reported activities during those time periods.

Examples of reported activities were gardening, playing sports, or caring for children. The researchers did not ask about duration of pain, cause of pain, or location of pain.

Twenty-nine percent of men and 27% of women reported feeling some pain at the sampled times.

The participants were asked about six feelings: happiness, pain, being tired, sadness, stressed, and interested. They were also asked to rate the severity of the feeling on a scale from 0 to 6.


Here are some of the key findings:

  • The less education and income a person had, the greater the pain rating they reported. People without a high school diploma had twice the average pain rating of college graduates.
  • Those with an income below $30,000 a year had nearly twice the average pain rating of those who made $100,000 or more a year.
  • The average pain rating increased with age, although it reached a plateau between ages 45 to 75, with little difference between women and men.
  • People reported more pain as they entered their mid-70s.

The researchers say while we do know more about pain caused by conditions such as arthritis, back injury, and chronic pain, we really know very little about other types of daily pain.

In the U.S., people spent more than $2.5 billion on over-the-counter pain medications within the year ending in March 2007. In 2004, Americans spent nearly $14 billion on outpatient prescription pain relievers.

Researchers hope that finding out more about the nature and severity of pain can help lead to better medical treatments and a greater understanding of why people seek medical care. The research is published in the May 3 edition of The Lancet.

WebMD Health News



Kreuger, A. The Lancet, May 3, 2008. vol 37: pp 1519-1525.

News release, The Lancet.

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