Millennials prefer healthy habits, less likely to choose opioids to manage pain

August 30, 2017

CHICAGO - Often spending their days hunched over phones, tablets or computers and their free time at spin class or playing sports, millennials are the next generation poised to experience chronic pain. Even at their young age, millennials say acute and chronic pain are already interfering with their quality of life.

Their preferred method to manage pain? Lifestyle changes such as exercising, eating right, quitting smoking and losing weight, according to a nationwide survey commissioned by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) in conjunction with September's Pain Awareness Month. (Click here to download infographic.)

The survey also found millennials were half as likely as baby boomers to have turned to opioids to manage pain, and 1 in 5 millennials regret that they used the highly addictive painkillers.

But while the results reflect a positive trend, they also reveal a knowledge gap. The survey found many millennials were:"It's encouraging that millennials see the value of opting for safer and often more effective methods of managing pain," said ASA President Jeffrey Plagenhoef, M.D. "But clearly they are in need of further education when it comes to opioids and chronic pain because using the drugs initially to treat pain can turn into a lifelong struggle with addiction."

Learning how to manage pain safely and effectively is vital: 75 percent of millennials say they have had acute pain (which comes on suddenly and lasts less than three months) and nearly 60 percent have experienced chronic pain (which lasts longer than three months). The source of that pain is reflective of millennials' lifestyle, including technology use (leading to eye strain, neck aches, hand or finger pain, wrist or arm pain), migraines and sports injuries.

According to the survey, millennials (ages 18-36) and members of Generation X (ages 37-52) are most likely to report pain interfered with their work responsibilities, parenting abilities and participation in family activities.

It's important to address pain before it interferes with quality of life by seeing the right specialist for pain management. Whatever the age, people in severe pain who don't find relief through lifestyle changes should see a physician who specializes in pain management, such as a physician anesthesiologist. These specialists have received four years of medical school and additional training in a medical specialty, followed by an additional year of training to become an expert in treating pain. They have the expertise to best help you manage your pain.

But engaging in lifestyle changes before chronic pain can gain a further foothold is preferable. When possible, prevention is best. "Chronic pain does not have to be an automatic response to aging," said Dr. Plagenhoef. "Healthy lifestyle changes such as exercising, proper nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight can keep millennials from dealing with some of the chronic pain their parents and grandparents are experiencing."

To help all generations effectively manage their pain, ASA offers the following tips:The 10-question ORC International CARAVAN® Omnibus Survey was conducted online August 7-9, 2017 among 1,011 U.S. adults 18 years or older: 34 percent were millennials, 25 percent were Gen Xers, 35 percent were baby boomers (ages 53-71) and 6 percent were from the silent generation (ages 72-92). The demographically representative sample included 504 men and 507 women.
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For more information about pain treatment and the importance of seeing a physician anesthesiologist, visit the ASA's pain management and opioid for chronic pain management pages.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists

Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 52,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring that physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during, and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care that every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at asahq.org.

American Society of Anesthesiologists

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