Economists have put a price on pain, and it’s $56 - $145 a day

August 9, 2017

Economists have put a price on pain, and it’s $56 - $145 a day

Vox

Economists can put a dollar value on anything. Even pain.

In a recently released working paper (paywall) featuring IHPI member Edward Norton, economists from the University of Iceland and the University of Michigan set out to quantify just how much it’s worth to people to live a life without pain. They estimate that for people in the US age 50 and older, avoiding chronic pain is worth somewhere between $56 and $145 a day.

The act of putting a monetary value on pain might seem ridiculous. It’s not. As the researchers point out, since governments pay partly or fully for health care in many countries, they have to compare the value of money spent on providing and researching pain relief to the value of other spending priorities, such as improving highways. And to quantify the value of pain-relief research, you have to know how much pain relief is worth to people with pain.

The act of putting a monetary value on pain might seem ridiculous. It’s not. As the researchers point out, since governments pay partly or fully for health care in many countries, they have to compare the value of money spent on providing and researching pain relief to the value of other spending priorities, such as improving highways. And to quantify the value of pain-relief research, you have to know how much pain relief is worth to people with pain.

As a result of aging population, chronic pain is due to become an increasingly important global issue. Yet many other problems in the world compete for funding—poverty, lack of education, environmental pollution. Understanding just how much a pain-free life is worth will help governments decide how much to spend on providing one.

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