Younger Veterans Much More Likely to Suffer Severe Pain Than Nonveterans

By Brenda L. Mooney

BETHESDA, MD – Veterans, especially those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, are about 40% more likely to experience severe pain than nonveterans, according to a new study.

In fact, younger veterans were substantially more likely to report suffering from severe pain than nonveterans, even after researchers controlled for underlying demographic characteristics. On the other hand, female veterans were no more likely to report pain than civilian women.

The surprising results are from an article published recently in the Journal of Pain. The research was led by Richard L. Nahin, PhD, MPH, lead epidemiologist at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD.1

“These findings suggest that more attention should be paid to helping veterans manage the impact of severe pain and related disability on daily activities,” Nahin suggested.

The new analysis of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that American veterans experience higher prevalence of pain and more severe pain than nonveterans, with young and middle-aged veterans suffering the most. The study pointed out that the survey provides the first national estimate of severe pain associated with health conditions in veterans as compared to nonveterans.

For the purposes of the research, severe pain was defined as that which occurs “most days” or “every day” and bothers someone “a lot.”

Data from the 2010-2014 NHIS was used for the analysis, focusing on responses from 6,647 veterans and 61,049 nonveterans about the persistence and intensity of self-reported pain during the three months prior to the survey. Veteran respondents were overwhelmingly male, 92.5%, but the majority of nonveteran participants were women, 56.5%. No specific aspects of military service, including branch of the armed forces, years of service or whether the veteran served in a combat role were identified in the data.

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  1. Linda Sulton, DNP, FNP says:

    This topic was discussed in my work place a few days ago. I work in a VA woman’s clinic, most of the primary care is for bone pain related issues. It difficult to control pain with all the other medical problems

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