March 19 (UPI) -- Marijuana may be making people healthier and helping them work longer hours, recent findings suggest.
The number of people who reported feeling pain fell by nearly 5 percent in states that had laws permitting medical marijuana, according to a study published in the spring issue of Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Those states also saw a 6.6 percent increase in people who felt they were in very good or excellent health.
"Our study is important because of the limited availability of clinical trial data on the effects of medical marijuana," Lauren Hersch Nicholas, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University and study author, said in a news release. "While several studies point to improved pain control with medical marijuana, research has largely ignored older adults even though they experience the highest rates of medical issues that could be treated with medical marijuana."
The researchers looked at data from 1992 to 2012 for people over age 51 and gauged their ability to work based on: symptoms of depression, frequency of pain, health-related work limits and overall health assessment.
They compared this data to the passage of medical marijuana laws in different states where the people in the study lived.
About 55 percent of the study participants had symptoms of arthritis, cancer, glaucoma and pain, which qualified them for medical marijuana in most states.
The research showed an increase in full-time work by 7.3 percent among people who qualified for medical marijuana use compared to 5 percent among people who didn't.
This new study adds to past research that shows more than 60 percent of people using medical marijuana are doing so for treatment of chronic pain.
Today, 33 states and the District of Columbia allow the use of medicinal marijuana.
"These findings underscore the close relationship between health policy and labor supply within older adults," Nicholas said. "When we're doing policy evaluations, we have to think not only about whether the policy is changing health outcomes, but also whether it does it in a way that supports labor force participation."