Middle-aged Americans are living with more physical pain than older adults, and the problem is concentrated among the less-educated, a new study finds.
The pattern may seem counterintuitive, since older age generally means more chronic health conditions and wear-and-tear on the body. And the middle-age pain peak is not seen in other wealthy countries, researchers said.
In other areas of health, there is a dividing line among Americans, the study found.
It is relatively less-educated people who are reporting more pain in middle age, and it is because they are suffering more pain throughout life than older generations did.
“We are not sure why that is,” said study author Anne Case, a professor of economics and public affairs emeritus at Princeton University.
But she said her team suspects the causes may be related to a host of social factors affecting younger generations of Americans who lack a college degree: falling wages, job instability, fewer social connections, less marriage, and more divorce.
“It’s an unfortunate mix of things,” she said. “And one of the manifestations is pain.”
That’s not to say that the pain is not “real” but that daily stress, junk food and poor mental well-being can worsen the experience of physical pain.
And if people are working 2 jobs, or worried about paying rent, it is hard to exercise or take other steps to manage pain.
The study was published on 21 September in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It analyzed responses to several US and international health surveys.
The US surveys included Gallup polls done between Ys 2008 and 2017, and the National Health Interview Survey for the years Ys 1997 to 2018.
They asked about pain in different ways.
The Gallup polls asked whether people experienced pain for “a lot” of the previous day. The NHIS asked about pain over the past 3 months.
But both showed the same pattern. People reported the most pain in middle age, with a decline starting around 60 anni.
When the researchers looked again, taking education into consideration, things diverged. The middle-age pain peak was only among Americans without a bachelor’s degree. Among those with a degree, fewer people reported pain at any age, and pain became more common with advancing age.
Americans with a college degree looked more like Europeans, whose pain reports also increased with age.
The Big Q: Why would older Americans without a college degree have less pain than their younger counterparts?
The Big A: Each generation of less-educated Americans seems to experience more pain throughout life than the 1s before.
For example, the researchers found, 32% of less-educated Americans born in Y 1955 reported pain at age 52. Among people born in Y 1965, 40% reported pain at 52.
Rising rates of obesity appeared to explain part of the trend. But Ms Case believes social and economic factors play a Key role as they have in “deaths of despair“. Those deaths from suicide, drug overdoses, and alcohol abuse have been rising among less-educated Americans.
It is unclear exactly how the opioid crisis fits in just yet, but pain among less-educated Americans may be both a cause and consequence of the epidemic, Rising rates of pain may have helped fuel more Rx prescriptions, and prolonged opioid use can worsen pain.
Obesity and its related health problems could be partly driving pain among younger, less-educated Americans.
Pain cannot be separated into “physical” and “psychological.”
And the day-to-day stress and insecurity many lower-income Americans face can feed pain, just as physical conditions can.
These new findings underscore a reality that has already been in focus: Pain is a growing problem among Americans, and that does not augur well for the future.
There is also concern the China virus will worsen the situation. Many people are not only dealing with greater stress, but more difficulty in dealing with it, whether from less access to healthcare, fewer ways to exercise, or fewer “feel-good moments” during the day.
“In a recent report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there was a very provocative finding, and it seems to align with more recent data on who’s at risk for suicide. What is concerning is that suicide rates have gone up 35% since 1999, and the highest rates are in middle-aged Americans. However, an easy stress reducer is a healthy diet and exercise. Apparently, both ease stress and that is easy to understand.
“Remember when the body and mind are occupied than just being idle, this can cause one to divert the mind to a lesser stressful environment, away from money and employment difficulties, which is easy to understand. Positive thinking friends especially can be helpful too. Just remember more than ever, Stress and Anxiety are present in our Lives and are not inescapable.
“Another strong recommendation is when watching television, turn on something like stand-up comedy, a light-hearted movie or variety show or anything else that makes you feel better. You don’t need to watch the news stories that detail personal tragedies.
“Think also about changing your eating habits from heavy foods, especially at dinner time, to those that are less stressful on the digestive system. Perhaps, think think of adding drug-free vitamin supplements to balance the fluids of the body’ This might too be advisable and if things become unbearable, there are also qualified psychologists because sometimes just talking out one’s problems with a qualified listener and advisor can be very helpful but make sure they are come highly recommended – not from one person but a few,” says medical industry expert Bruce WD Barren, Chairman of The EMCO/ Hanover Group.
Have a healthy day, Keep the Faith!