In what is billed as the first statistically significant national survey of pain, pollsters have determined that most Americans hurt quite a lot over the course of a year, and many suffer several different kinds of pain. Indeed, reports Louis Harris and Associates, pain causes the loss of about 4 billion sick days a year -- or 23 days per person.
The study of a standard national cross section of 1,254 Americans, plus two separate samples consisting of 102 advertising account executives and 63 members of the New York Stock Exchange, can be accuarately extrapolated to the population at large, the pollsters said.
The researchers found that some 47 million Americans had toothaches or other dental pain last year; 37 million women suffered from menstrual-related pain; 80 million people had stomach aches; 89 million suffered joint pain, and 92 million complained of sore muscles.
The all-time biggest American aches, however, are in the back -- with 97 million American backs "out," and in the head, with a soaring 127 million sufferers -- almost three-quarters of the population.
In something of a surprise to pollsters, the report indicates that most pain recedes with age. "The younger people are, the more likely they are to suffer from pain," the report states. "This holds true when it comes to headaches, backaches, muscle pains, stomach pains, premenstrual and menstrual pains and dental pains." Only the prevalence of joint pain increases with age.
Other pain demographics suggest that:
*Women experience more pain than men.
*White Americans on the whole experience more pain than blacks or Hispanics (but black and Hispanic women have more mensturally related pain).
*Lower-income Americans tend to have more joint pain, but higher-income Americans have more muscle pain. (There is more jogging and strenuous exercise among higher income groups, the report says. Joggers tend to have more muscle and menstrual pain than non-joggers, but suffer less from backaches and joint pains.)
In the detailed questionnaires, the pollsters were able to find statistical confirmation for some hypotheses under study by medical researchers that pain is clearly familial or genetic and much pain is linked to stress, or, as this survey put it, to "hassles." Using a variation of a life-style "hassle" scale developed at the University of California at Berkeley, the Harris researchers asked their subjects how hassles, defined as certain "irritating, frustrating, distressing demands that to some degree characterize everyday transactions with the environment," affected them. Their hassle ratings were then related to the incidence of pains they reported.
The especially bothersome hassles included concerns about rising prices, too many things to do, money for emergencies, difficulties relaxing, family illness, worry about health, trouble making decisions and not having enough money for basic necessities. Hassles also included troublesome neighbors or coworkers, being lonely, crime, air pollution and excessive noise.
High scorers were affected by an average of 8.6 hassles in the month preceding the interview, compared with medium scores of 3.9 bothersome hassles and low score of one hassle in the last month.
Those who scored highest on the hassle scale also suffered from more of all classes of pain, between 18 and 26 percentage points higher than the their less hassled counterparts.
Stress on the job was widely cited by those surveyed as a measure of stress. The two subcategories interviewed -- the account executives and the stock exchange members -- were specifically used as a measure of the relation of stress to pain. The ad execs cited high stress on the job and a higher-than-average incidence of pain, especially headaches and toothaches.
However, the stock exchange members appeared less likely to suffer pain than any other occupational group studied. They are "particularly interesting," the report stated, because "they report a very high level of stress, but have an extraordinarily low score on the Hassles Scale," a possible explanation for their low prevalence of pain.