This study surveyed 1,004 U.S. adults about their attitudes and experiences with pain, and the results shed new light on how people experience and deal with it.

According to the study, 46% of the population had experienced severe pain at some time in their lives. Furthermore, 49% reported chronic back pain and 41% reported migraine pain.
"Even more astounding, 24% of respondents have experienced pain strong enough to interfere with their daily activities a couple of times each month."

Other findings of interest:

  • 88% thought that it was "more important to treat the cause of the pain than the pain itself."
  • 92% of the respondents believed that pain is a "part of life."
  • "Even though many Americans experience pain, most prefer to bear pain for a while, rather than quickly take some action to relieve it. Sixty-six percent noted that the last time they felt fairly serious pain, they withstood the pain, whereas only 30% stated that they acted quickly to relieve the pain. Similarly, 71% generally avoid calling the doctor when they are in pain."
  • 82% of those questioned felt that it "is too easy to become dependent on pain medications," although there may be some confusion as to what exactly constitutes a drug. One woman in the survey stated, "I'll take Tylenol for a headache, but I don't like to take medicine unless I have to."
  • Americans also seem open to the idea of alternatives to drugs for pain treatment: 77% agreed that "I would rather try natural pain relief techniques like relaxation, before taking medication."
  • Patients also felt that physicians were the most reliable source of information on pain, but a full 41% believed that medical doctors prescribed too much medication.

Bostrom M. Summary of the Mayday Fund Survey: public attitudes about pain and analgesics. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 1997;13(3):166-168.