There Will Always Be New Pain in Chile

The ancient Romans noted that willow bark can be used to fight fevers.  It turned out that the leaves and bark of the willow tree contain a substance called salicin, a naturally occurring compound similar to acetylsalicylic acid, the chemical name for aspirin.  In 1897, a German chemist with the Friedrich Bayer and Company was searching for a treatment for his father's arthritic pain and began to research acetylsalicylic acid, which worked well. His discovery resulted in the development of a product introduced as Aspirin. By 1899, The Bayer Company was providing aspirin to physicians to give to their patients.  In 1915, aspirin becomes available without a prescription.  Today, one can walk into any pharmacy, supermarket, convenience store or even a newspaper kiosk and buy over-the-counter pain relievers.

How popular is the use of pain relievers such as aspirins?  We will now refer to the 2004 TGI Chile study.  This is a survey of 3,554 persons between the ages of 12 and 75 conducted in Chile during 2004.  Within this survey, fully 60% of the respondents said that they used a pain reliever in the last 30 days.

For this article, we are more curious about people who are heavey users of pain reliever.  That is, we wanted to look beyond the person who has the occasional headache now and then.  Rather, we asked our respondents how many times that they have taken pain relievers in those past 30 days.  It turned out that 21% of the survey respondents said that they took pain relievers ten or more times.  These are people whose lives are encapsulated by the closing two sentences in Günter Grass' novel örtlich betäubt (translation: Local Anaesthetic) :"Nichts hält vor. Immer neue Schmerzen." (translation: Nothing works.  There will always be new pain."

Who are these pain sufferers?  The first chart below shows the usage separately by gender and age.  Here are some common perceptions: women experience more pain than men; women discuss pain more than men; women cope better with pain than men; women deal with pain differently than men.  There is another common perception that older people experience more pain; this does not appear to be borne out, but we have to remember that we are referring solely to over-the-counter non-prescription drugs here.

(Source: 2004 TGI Chile)

The next chart shows the usage by socio-economic level and educational achievement.  It is difficult to come up with a single simple explanation as to how it is the middle-class that are the heaviest users of pain relievers.  The problem is usage is driven by a number of factors: Do you think the middle-class experience more painful conditions?  Do you think the middle-class are more conditioned to use over-the-counter pain relievers at the onset of anything that resembles pain?  Do you think the middle-class are better educated about these over-the-counter medicines than the lower-class?  Do you think the lower-class are less likely to be able to afford using pain relievers very heavily?

(Source: 2004 TGI Chile)

(posted by Roland Soong, 2/13/2005)

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