Americans today are living longer than ever — unfortunately, though, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are living better. There are many different issues that are connected to poor health and chronic pain, but in a study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, poor diet and lack of physical activity were described as two of the leading causes of health issues in the nation. The findings from this study and two others, all from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), have received wide public attention in recent weeks.
This research examined data from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010, which provides comprehensive data on health outcomes for individuals from countries around the world. One aspect of the data in this study that has been pointed out is the large number of Americans suffering from disabilities that are related to neck and back pain. In fact, lower back pain came in third (behind ischemic heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) as a top cause of “disability-adjusted life years.” This measure was developed as a time-based way to interpret the data, looking at the years of life individuals lived with a disability, and the number of years of life lost due to premature mortality as a result of a disability (as compared to someone who does not have this disability). The data show that living with chronic pain is not only diminishing your overall quality of life, it can also actually shorten your life span.
This study, and the other papers being published from it, emphasize the importance of preventative care and basic health habits — the First Lady herself, Michelle Obama, has been promoting these studies as part of her efforts to increase awareness of exercise- and obesity-related issues. With chronic back pain and musculoskeletal problems finally being recognized as a more serious health issue, it will be interesting and exciting to see the changes and improvements that can be made for treating and helping those who currently living with chronic neck and back pain. With stronger awareness, earlier intervention becomes a greater possibility — and less pain can become a promise.
You can learn more about this study, and the IHME, on their website.