The percentage of prime-aged workers in the workforce–specifically men 25-54–has plummeted from 100% in the 1960’s to 88.3% today, according to an NPR story.

If “plummet” seems like too strong a word, consider: That’s 10 million prime-aged workers and “essentially, 10 million men are missing from the workforce.”

The chief economist for says, “if men keep exiting the workforce, that could strain the social safety net and hold back economic growth.”

According to a recent New York Times Opinion piece uses the figure of 7 million men. According to their report, 40 percent of those men report that pain is keeping them out of jobs for which they are qualified. Nearly half of those take pain medication daily–a third of them take prescription drugs.

The New York Times notes that it’s impossible to say whether the pain is a cause or an effect of being out of work. Depression can worsen pain; overuse of pain medication can worsen depression.

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