According to new national data, an estimated 50 million or 20.4 percent of U.S. adults have chronic pain. Meanwhile, 19.6 million or 8 percent have high-impact chronic pain. The study was reported in the Sep. 14 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publication.

“This recent epidemiological study is incredibly important, because it provides the most precise data we have to date on the prevalence of chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain in the U.S. adult population,” says Cindy Steinberg, U.S. Pain Foundation’s national director of policy and advocacy.

Paid for by the National Institutes of Health, the study was called for in the “Population Research” section of the National Pain Strategy, a national plan for improving pain care in America that was issued in 2016.

To obtain this data, two questions were inserted in the National Health Information Survey, an in-person household health survey of the civilian U.S. population conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. Chronic pain was defined as pain on most days or every day in the past six months. High-impact chronic pain, a construct first introduced in the National Pain Strategy, is defined as pain that limits life or work activities on most days or every day during the past six months.

Seventy-four percent of those with chronic pain are over the age of 45 with the largest group – 23.3 million adults in the 45 to 64 age range. Consistent with previous studies is that the prevalence of chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain was larger among women, at 56 percent and 58 percent respectively.

“It is important and necessary to have this precise data on pain in order to inform future policy interventions as well as judge the success of these interventions,” says Steinberg. “However, this work is just a small subset of the epidemiological information we need to begin to better address the enormous problem of pain in America.”

To see U.S. Pain’s new infographic about chronic pain, which reflects these updated statistics, click here.