Statistical Portrait of Suffering in America

  • Ronald E. AndersonEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Well-Being and Quality of Life Research book series (BRIEFSWELLBEING)


Suffering is multifaceted and encompasses pain, depression, anxiety, grief, existential suffering, and social suffering. These types of suffering were operationalized in the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) of non-institutionalized adults in the USA. Over 6,000 were interviewed in 2010 on pain-related topics. Estimates were derived for 14 types of suffering, many of which tend to occur together. About 52 million people, or one in four of Americans 18 or older, reported having a recent, significant case of pain, depression, or anxiety. Even if we limit our count of the suffering to extreme suffering–those who describe their experience with pain to be “excruciating and unbearable” or their depression so bad that they sometimes “cannot get out of bed,” we find that 13 % Americans (25 million adults) struggle nearly every day. Most types of suffering, except existential suffering, are more common among women, those over age 55, and those with a relative low income. One of the important findings was that suffering plays a greater role in predicting quality of life (QOL) than does health, income, and social support. Finding so much suffering in a contemporary, affluent society raises the possibility that affluence itself through lifestyles and beliefs produces suffering not typically found in poverty stricken nations.


Caregiving  Chronic pain  Depression  Emotions  Existential suffering  Extreme pain  Grief  Happiness  Quality of life  Pain  Poverty  Social suffering  Suffering 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MinnesotaWayzataUSA

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