“Overall, almost three out of five adults (58.9%) had pain of any kind in the last 3 months of 2019,” researchers reported. “Site-specific pain such as back, neck, arm and hip pain are associated with short- and long-term health effects, ranging from mild discomfort to impairment of the musculoskeletal system, reduced quality of life and rising health costs.”
Household income appears to play a role in pain prevalence. Nearly 45% of people living in households below the federal poverty line in 2019 ($ 25,750 for a family of four) reported having back pain. In people with a household income that was at least 200% higher, the back pain rate was 37.6%. The association between pain and poverty was similar in people with pain in the upper and lower limbs.
The study results are similar to the so-called “deaths of desperation” first reported in 2015 by Princeton researchers Angus Deaton and Anne Case -Age white Americans.
Between 1999 and 2013, the death rate among middle-aged whites rose 2 percent, with an increase in fatal overdoses. No other race or ethnic group has seen such an increase in mortality. The rising white mortality rate has been accompanied by more suicides and substance abuse, as well as increases in joint pain, neck pain, sciatica and disability.
One critic of the “death of desperation” theory is Andrew Kolodny, MD, founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP). Kolodny recently claimed in a webinar that overdoses are caused by drug addiction rather than socio-economic factors.
“While death from desperation is provocative, it is unlikely to explain the main causes of the deadly drug epidemic and that efforts to improve economic conditions in times of need, although desirable for other reasons, are unlikely to result in significant reductions in drug mortality. “Said Kolodny.
Kolodny and at least three other PROP board members were well-paid experts in opioid litigation – legal proceedings that depend on a public narrative that excessive opioid prescribing led to the overdose crisis, rather than mental health problems or economic inequality. Maintaining this narrative is becoming increasingly difficult as opioid prescriptions are at 20-year lows and overdose deaths at record highs, fueled in part by economic and social problems exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.