Rural-Urban Differences in the Prevalence and Impact of Chronic Pain

Research center:
Project funded:
September 2023
Anticipated completion date:
August 2024

Chronic pain is a common chronic health condition, with estimates suggesting that about one in five United States adults reported experiencing pain on most or all days in 2019. For important policy reasons, access to pharmaceutical pain management has become more limited in the past decade. According to the CDC, opioid prescribing rates declined by half from 2012 to 2020. The impact of this practice shift on pain management has received relatively little attention, particularly for rural residents who may have access to fewer pain management options. Limited epidemiologic data suggests that chronic pain is more common in rural than in urban populations, but there is a need for more recent research that specifies the prevalence and effects of chronic pain among rural adults while clarifying how members of this population manage their pain.

This project will rely on data from the 2019-2021 National Health Interview Survey, which introduced a chronic pain module in 2019. The study will examine rural-urban differences in chronic pain prevalence and severity, impacts of pain on social, emotional, and vocation functioning, and the use of pain treatments, including opioids and non-pharmacological therapies.