The Hurt in Numbers

October 8th, 2010

I discussed the data from the CARP poll in regards to chronic pain in the last newsletter. Many of the numbers were shocking. But the CARP survey results were not a fluke. In May of 2009 the Canadian Pain Society released data from different research studies as well as surveys of 4,000 Canadians conducted in 2007 and 2008 on behalf of (an advocacy and awareness campaign committed to raising awareness of the issue of under-treated pain in Canada). This is what these numbers tell:

• More than 18% of Canadians over the age of 18 suffer from chronic pain

• Of those surveyed who had moderate to severe chronic pain, almost 60% had lost their job, suffered loss of income or had a reduction in responsibilities as a result of their pain and 70.5% were currently under the care of a doctor for their pain

• Among those who were employed, the mean annual number of lost work days as a result of pain was 28.5

• Chronic pain prevalence increases with age, If we do not treat our growing pain problem the situation will only intensify

• Direct health care costs for Canada were estimated to be $6.02 billion per year (in year 2000 dollars) for chronic pain sufferers. By 2025, with the aging of our population, these costs can be expected to rise to $10.3 billion per year

• Almost 28% of chronic pain sufferers were diagnosed with depression, while 20% were diagnosed with an anxiety disorders. Since these diagnoses can overlap, 11.5% of chronic pain sufferers reported having both diagnoses

• Chronic pain sufferers have lower quality of life than patients with depression, renal failure and cardiac disease.

• Pain accounts for over 20% of all doctor visits, 10% of drug sales and costs to developed countries of $1 trillion each year

• Patients suffering from chronic pain deteriorate while waiting for access to care – a national survey identified that wait times for treatment at publicly funded pain clinics across Canada exceed 6 month benchmarks with wait times 1-5 years in some clinics and with large areas of Canada having no service

• Less than 1% of total funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is allocated to pain-related studies for a problem that at minimum affects 18% of the population.

Canada is not alone. In 2006, an international journal reported a survey of 46,394 people in 15 European countries and Israel, finding that 19% had suffered pain for 6 months, seriously affecting the quality of their social and working lives. Very few patients were managed by pain specialists and nearly half received inadequate pain management. The researchers concluded that chronic pain is a major health care problem in Europe that needs to be taken more seriously.

I want you to think of all people afflicted by chronic pain: Older individuals, patients with cognitive impairments, young children, adults in the middle of their most productive years, patients who suffer from chronic diseases where pain is an unwanted companion (patients with diabetic neuropathy, post herpetic neuralgia, AIDS, neuropathies after cancer treatment, multiple sclerosis etc), and the list is endless. These people could be you, a loved one in your own home or your next door neighbor.