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Papers: 11 Nov 2023 - 17 Nov 2023

2023 Nov 10

J Pain


Seventeen-Year National Pain Prevalence Trends Among U.S. Military Veterans.


Taylor KA, Kapos FP, Sharpe JA, Kosinski AS, Rhon DI, Goode AP


U.S. military veterans experience higher pain prevalence than nonveterans. However, it is unclear how the disparities in pain prevalence have changed over time because previous trend studies are limited to veterans using the Veterans Health Administration. This repeated cross-sectional study aimed to characterize pain prevalence trends in the overall population of U.S. veterans compared to nonveterans, using nationally-representative data. We analyzed 17 years of data from the National Health Interview Survey (2002-2018), with a mean annual unweighted sample of 29,802 U.S. adults (total unweighted n=506,639) and mean annual weighted population of 229.7 million noninstitutionalized adults. The weighted proportion of veterans ranged 11.48% in 2002 (highest) to 8.41% in 2017 (lowest). We found that veterans experience a similar or higher prevalence of pain than nonveterans across the study period, except for severe headache or migraine and facial pain. Pain prevalence among veterans increased over time, with a higher rate of increase compared to nonveterans for all pain variables. From 2002 to 2018 there was an absolute increase (95% CI) in pain prevalence among veterans (severe headache or migraine: 2.0% [1.6% to 2.4%]; facial pain: 1.9% [1.4% to 2.4%]; neck pain: 4.7% [4.1% to 5.2%]; joint pain: 11.4% [10.8% to 11.9%]; low back pain: 10.3% [9.5% to 11.1%]; any pain: 10.0% [9.6% to 10.4%]; and multiple pains: 9.9% [9.2% to 10.6%]. The continued pain prevalence increase among veterans may have implications for healthcare utilization, highlighting the need for improved pain prevention and care programs for this population with a disproportionate pain burden. PERSPECTIVE: This article uses routinely-collected cross-sectional data that are nationally-representative of U.S. adults to present changes in pain prevalence among military veterans compared to nonveterans. The findings underscore the need for improved prevention and pain care programs for veterans, who experienced a widening disproportionate pain burden from 2002 to 2018.