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Posted: 04/30/12 03:28 PM ET

Chronic Pain Affects 47 Percent Of U.S. Adults, Survey Finds

If you're a chronic-pain sufferer, you're not alone.

A new study from Gallup-Healthways shows that 31 percent of U.S. adults have some sort of neck or back condition that causes them pain, 26 percent have some sort of leg or knee condition and 18 percent have another condition that causes chronic pain.

Forty-seven percent of people in the survey said they had at least one kind of chronic pain (meaning they had either neck or back pain, leg or knee pain, or another kind of pain), and 7 percent of people said they experienced all three kinds of chronic pain.

The researchers also found that more than a third of people who are in their mid-50s and up have some sort of ongoing neck or back pain.

Chronic knee and leg pain also plagues about a third of people in that age range, according to the data from the 2011 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Researchers also found that more than one in five people between late-40s and late-80s experienced pain that comes back again, according to the Gallup study.

The results are based on the data from 353,000 surveys from people ages 18 and older. The survey asked participants whether they had any sort of recurring pain condition over the last 12 months.

Notably, the researchers found that reports of chronic pain differed by age. Reports increased between ages 18 and 59, from 16 percent to 37 percent. But the researchers found that chronic pain reports stopped increasing once people hit 60.

One possible reason for this is that "it is possible that those who survive into their 70s and 80s are typically less likely to have such chronic pain conditions," the researchers wrote in the report.

Researchers also found that reports of chronic pain go down as income levels go up -- for example, 37 percent of people who make less than $36,000 per year report neck or back chronic pain, compared with 26 percent of people who make $90,000 or more per year. The researchers hypothesized that a big explanation for this is the lower rates of health insurance among people with lower incomes.

Weight also seemed to play a role in those who experience chronic pain. And perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise -- after all, a past Gallup-Healthways poll showed that a high body mass index (BMI, a ratio of height to weight) is also linked with higher rates of daily pain.

Click through the slideshow to see how chronic pain affects people based on their BMI, according to the new survey results:

BMI Less Than 18.5 (Underweight)
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Twenty-eight percent of underweight people said they had a neck or back condition that caused chronic pain, while 20 percent said they had a similar knee or leg condition. Eighteen percent said they had some other sort of condition that caused chronic pain.
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Filed by Amanda L. Chan  |