The economic costs of chronic pain among a cohort of treatment-seeking adolescents in the United States

Cornelius B. Groenewald*, Bonnie S. Essner, Davene Wright, Megan D. Fesinmeyer, Tonya M. Palermo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

280 Scopus citations


The aim of this study was to assess the economic cost of chronic pain among adolescents receiving interdisciplinary pain treatment. Information was gathered from 149 adolescents (ages 10-17) presenting for evaluation and treatment at interdisciplinary pain clinics in the United States. Parents completed a validated measure of family economic attributes, the Client Service Receipt Inventory, to report on health service use and productivity losses due to their child's chronic pain retrospectively over 12 months. Health care costs were calculated by multiplying reported utilization estimates by unit visit costs from the 2010 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. The estimated mean and median costs per participant were $11,787 and $6,770, respectively. Costs were concentrated in a small group of participants; the top 5% of those patients incurring the highest costs accounted for 30% of total costs, whereas the lower 75% of participants accounted for only 34% of costs. Total costs to society for adolescents with moderate to severe chronic pain were extrapolated to $19.5 billion annually in the United States. The cost of adolescent chronic pain presents a substantial economic burden to families and society. Future research should focus on predictors of increased health services use and costs in adolescents with chronic pain. Perspective This cost of illness study comprehensively estimates the economic costs of chronic pain in a cohort of treatment-seeking adolescents. The primary driver of costs was direct medical costs followed by productivity losses. Because of its economic impact, policy makers should invest resources in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of chronic pediatric pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)925-933
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Chronic pain
  • adolescents
  • cost of illness
  • economic cost

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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