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Millions of Americans Suffer Chronic Pain

Each month, one in four American adults suffers pain for at least 24 hours. That pain lasts for a year in nearly three-fifths of those over 65 and in 37 percent of those aged 20 to 44.

These numbers are why the CDC has made pain the focus of this year's annual report card on U.S. health.

The painful facts:

--In a 2004 survey, more than one in four American adults reported low back pain in the last three months.

--In 2004, 15 percent of American adults reported migraine or severe headache in the past three months.

--In 2004, about one-third of adults over 18 and half of adults 65 and older reported joint pain, joint aches, or joint stiffness in the past 30 days. The knee is the most common site of joint pain.

--Use of narcotic pain drugs is up. During 1988-1994, 3.2 percent of Americans took narcotics for pain. That percentage rose to 4.2 percent in 1999-2002.

--Recent low back pain makes it five times more likely that a person will suffer serious psychological distress.

The most common pains are low back pain, migraine or severe headache, and joint pain.

Other facts from the CDC's Health, United States, 2006:

--American girls born today can expect to live more than 80 years. An American boy's life expectancy is just short of 75 years.

--The gap in life expectancy between white Americans and black Americans has narrowed. The gap was seven years in 1990 and five years in 2004.

--The average cost of health care for Americans is $6,280 a year.

--In the last year, 7 percent of American adults under age 65 passed up needed health care because they could not afford it.

--Heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of Americans -- but between 2000 and 2004, U.S. heart-disease deaths dropped by 16 percent.

--Deaths from America's No. 2 killer -- cancer -- dropped 8 percent between 2000 and 2004.

--More and more Americans suffer diabetes. Diabetes strikes 11 percent of Americans aged 40 to 59 and 23 percent of Americans aged 60 and older.

By Daniel J. DeNoon, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, Health, United States, 2006. News release, CDC National Center for Health Statistics.