American veterans experience higher prevalence of pain and more severe pain than nonveterans, with young and middle-aged veterans suffering the most, according to a new analysis of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), by the lead epidemiologist at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health. This survey provides the first national estimate of severe pain associated with painful health conditions in veterans and nonveterans and underscores the importance of sustaining efforts to monitor and manage pain among veterans.
“Our analysis showed that veterans were about 40 percent more likely to experience severe pain than nonveterans,” said Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., lead author of the analysis. “As well, younger veterans were substantially more likely to report suffering from severe pain than nonveterans, even after controlling for underlying demographic characteristics. These findings suggest that more attention should be paid to helping veterans manage the impact of severe pain and related disability on daily activities.”
The analysis is based on data from the 2010-2014 NHIS, in which 67,696 adults (6,647 veterans and 61,049 nonveterans) responded to questions about the persistence and intensity of self-reported pain during the three months prior to the survey. The majority of veteran participants were men (92.5 percent), while the majority of nonveteran participants were women (56.5 percent). The survey data did not identify any specific aspects of military service, including branch of the armed forces, years of service, or whether the veteran served in a combat role.