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Is Chronic Pain Linked to Financial Stress?

Recently, several researchers have found new data to show how increased economic insecurity and complaints of physical pain are correlated.

Could it be true that experiencing financial stress may lead to physical pain?  In a recent study by Eileen Chou of the University of Virginia, she says, “Overall, our findings reveal that it physically hurts to be economically insecure. Results from six studies establish that economic insecurity produces physical pain, reduces pain tolerance, and predicts over-the-counter painkiller consumption.”

The research, led by Chou and colleagues Bidhan Parmar (University of Virginia) and Adam Galinsky (Columbia University) observing 33,720 individuals revealed that households in which both adults were unemployed spent 20% more on over-the-counter painkillers in 2008 compared with households in which at least one adult was working. And an online study with 187 participants indicated that two measures of economic insecurity – participants’ own unemployment and state-level insecurity – were correlated with participants’ reports of pain, as measured by a four-item pain scale.

“By showing that physical pain has roots in economic insecurity and feelings of lack of control, the current findings offer hope for short-circuiting the downward spiral initiated by economic insecurity and producing a new, positive cycle of well-being and pain-free experience,” they conclude.

The implications of the study are important for medical, claim and insurance professionals as they address situations involving loss of work and claimant financial insecurity. For an abstract of the research and contact information of the primary contributors, please click here >>

By Robert J. Blackburn, Managing Principal, Blackburn Group, Inc., contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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