Countdown Reason # 12: The Number of Kids with Chronic Conditions is Skyrocketing

I’ve written about how chronic pain is on the rise, as are rates of chronic disorders. But two new studies extend our knowledge about the prevalence of chronic conditions among Americans into an area that’s quite troubling: America’s children.

One study, published in the journal PAIN found that “recurrent chronic pain is overwhelmingly prevalent in children and adolescents, with, 11% to 38% of kids reporting pain.” Study authors looked at headache, back pain, abdominal pain, muscle pain and generalized pain. Rates depended on the sort of pain being reported. For instance one in four youth reported having regular headaches.

Girls generally experience more pain than boys. Which is not surprising since women suffer from more chronic conditions than men in adulthood.

What is most concerning, say investigators, is this:

“… prevalence rates of childhood pain have increased over the last several decades.”

Stress is most certainly playing a role.

The second study, published in the journal Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that children and teen’s chronic pain is associated with that of their parents. The more chronic pain parents experienced — especially mothers — the more their children reported chronic pain:

“…clear associations were observed between maternal pain and pain in adolescents and young adults…”

As adults, we need to look at managing our own sense of joy and well-being not just in terms of our own health, but that of our children. Every step we take to move past “stressed-out living” and reclaim joy in our life not only enriches us, it allows our kids to see how that’s possible. And that legacy is priceless.


Sara King, Christine T. Chambers, Anna Huguet, Rebecca C. MacNevin, Patrick J. McGrath, Louise Parker, Amanda J. MacDonald. The epidemiology of chronic pain in children and adolescents revisited: A systematic review. PAIN, 2011; 152 (12): 2729 DOI: 10.1016/j.pain.2011.07.016

(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. Published online November 19, 2012. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.428.