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Why pain management matters for the UK Economy

By Steve Dechan

Chronic pain is costly, and in more ways than one. When people think of chronic pain they will think of back pain, issues in the joints or mobility issues. Many will think of the mental health challenges posed also. However, all of the consequences of pain lead to a costly impact on the UK economy – policy makers need to focus their attention on this. 

Whether it is reduced mobility or secondary-depression caused by chronic pain, individuals reduce their economic output and activity as a result. Indeed, chronic pain is the leading cause of working days lost.  Arthritis Research UK estimates its costs the economy £20 billion every year. ONS data and NICE data on back pain suggest around £10 billion is lost every year through absenteeism, inability to work and lower productivity through this one condition alone. 

Absenteeism is a major consequence of chronic pain; musculoskeletal issues are the most significant long-term cause of workplace sickness: Minor illnesses were the most common reason for sickness absence in 2018, accounting for 27.2% (38.5 million days) of the total days lost to sickness. This was followed by musculoskeletal problems, at 19.7% (27.8 million days). 

What’s more, this absenteeism isn’t just limited to the private sector – the NHS has reported that musculoskeletal conditions are the leading cause of sick days within their organisation too. 

This should be a wake up call to policy makers. Chronic pain inflicts misery on millions – it also is costing organisations across the country too. COVID-19 has deepened economic divides and brought economic damage on a huge scale. If the Government is serious about ‘building back better’ then enabling people to live their lives pain free, and in turn contribute to the UK’s economic recovery needs to be top of the agenda. 

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