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"New Study: Low Back and Neck Pain Tops US Health Spending" - IHME. 03/03/2020

SEATTLE – Seeing a physician or other health specialist for low back and neck pain? You’re not alone, according to a new scientific study.

Americans in 2016 spent an estimated $380 billion on low back and neck pain, as well as on joint and limb pain, and other musculoskeletal disorders.

In total, $3.1 trillion – or $9,655 per person, about 17.9% of the US GDP – was spent on health care by a combination of individuals and public and private insurance. In 1996, that percentage was 13.3% of GDP, with a total amount of $1.4 trillion, or $5,259 per person.

“The vast costs associated with health care represent one of the most important and contentious issues facing Americans today,” said Dr. Joseph Dieleman of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “Our study provides comprehensive estimates over a 20-year period that highlight how health care and prescription drugs are paid for, what they are spent on, and how such payments have changed over time.”

Among 154 conditions included in today’s study, low back and neck pain generated the highest expenditures at $134.5 billion. When combined with all other musculoskeletal disorders, such as joint and limb pain, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, the total exceeds $380 billion, or 14.1% of the $2.7 trillion included in this study for 2016.

Other health conditions with substantial spending in 2016 were diabetes ($111.2 billion), ischemic heart disease ($89.3 billion), and falls ($87.4 billion).


Joseph Dieleman