Shingles Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

Each year, about 1 million people in the United States develop shingles, a painful condition caused by the reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox. An estimated 1 in 3 Americans will get shingles at some point during their lifetime.

This article will highlight the important facts and statistics you should know about shingles, including how common it is, who is at risk, mortality rates, early treatment, and prevention.

Person receiving shingles vaccine from healthcare provider

Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

Shingles Overview

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster (HZ), is a medical condition caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). VZV also causes chickenpox. If you’ve ever had chickenpox, VZV can remain dormant in your body and cause shingles later in life.

The primary symptom of shingles is an extremely painful, burning, and/or tingling rash. A shingles rash typically shows up as a stripe or band across only one side of the face or body. After a few days, the rash usually turns into a crop of fluid-filled blisters that crust over within about a week.

Other shingles symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache

An estimated 10% to 18% of people who get shingles develop a complication called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN causes severe, long-term nerve pain in the area of the original shingles rash.

Other complications of shingles can include:

  • Hearing or vision loss
  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • Pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs)

Shingles and Chickenpox

Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles at some point. However, many people who have had chickenpox weren’t aware of it at the time. Over 99% of U.S. adults who were born before 1980 have had chickenpox at some point.

How Common Is Shingles?

Shingles is extremely common in the United States. Here are a few key statistics about the prevalence of herpes zoster among American adults:

  • About 1 in 3 people in the United States will get shingles at some point. 
  • There are about 1 million shingles cases in the United States each year.
  • Annually, there are four to five new shingles cases per 1,000 people in the United States.
  • Around 1 in 2 shingles cases occur in people age 60 and older.
  • Just under 1 in 15 people who get shingles will get it a second time. 

Among young adults, shingles cases appear to have increased in recent years. Between 2008 and 2016, shingles rates among people ages 30 to 49 doubled, increasing from just over 2.0 to just over 4.0 cases per 1,000 people. Meanwhile, rates of new shingles cases among older adults have appeared to plateau since 2008.

Shingles by Ethnicity

Anyone can get shingles, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, or gender. However, research suggests that herpes zoster is significantly less common among Black people in the United States. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes Black Americans are about 50% less likely than White Americans to develop shingles. A 2020 analysis that included data from international studies found that Black people were around 31% less likely to be diagnosed with shingles. 

A 2018 survey of people receiving care through a health maintenance organization in Northern California found Black respondents were approximately 25% less likely to get shingles than their White counterparts. Compared to White people in the study, the risk of shingles was 16% greater for Latinx people and 17% greater for people who were Asian or Pacific Islander.

Shingles by Age and Gender

Shingles is somewhat more common among females than males. One study suggested U.S. females face a 33% higher risk of developing herpes zoster. Another study found that, among all age groups, overall annual shingles rates ranged from 3.66 among men to 5.25 among women per 1,000 person years.

The risk of developing herpes zoster and shingles complications increases significantly as you age. About half of new shingles cases are among people aged 60 and older.

Below are the average lifetime prevalence rates of shingles among older Americans, according to a study in The Gerontologist. These numbers reflect the percentage of people in each age group who reported having had shingles at some point in their life.

Shingles Rates Among Older Adults
Age Shingles Prevalence Rate
54 to 59 9.7%
60 to 64 10.7%
65 to 69 12.7%
70 to 74 14.9%
75 to 79 17.1%
80 to 84 20.4%
85 to 89 22.9%
90+ 25.8%

What Are the Mortality Rates for Shingles?

Shingles-related deaths are relatively rare. However, herpes zoster can sometimes lead to death among older adults and people whose immune systems are weakened by immunosuppressant drugs or infections like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). 

Here’s what you need to know about shingles mortality rates and hospitalization:

  • In the United States, shingles causes fewer than 100 deaths each year.
  • Shingles death rates are approximately 10 times higher among people over 65 years old.
  • Rarely, immunocompromised people (those who have a weakened immune system) with shingles develop viscerally disseminated VZV, which spreads to the major organs and can be deadly.
  • Between 1 in 25 and 1 in 100 people who develop shingles have to be hospitalized.
  • About 1 in 3 people who are hospitalized for shingles are immunocompromised. 

Shingles Early Treatment and Prevention

There is no cure for shingles. However, if administered within 72 hours of a shingles diagnosis, antiviral medications can help to shorten the length of the illness and reduce its effects.

Shingles is a vaccine-preventable disease. It is recommended that people who have a higher risk of shingles (including all adults age 50 and over and immunocompromised adults age 19 and over) get two doses of Shingrix (the recombinant zoster vaccine). The shingles vaccine works to prevent both shingles and related complications like PHN.

Shingrix Vaccine Effectiveness

Shingrix is extremely effective in reducing the risk of getting shingles and complications such as PHN. It is also effective in reducing the severity of the disease if shingles does occur.

In healthy individuals over the age of 50, Shingrix is more than 90% effective in preventing disease. In immunocompromised adults, the vaccine is 68% to 91% effective in preventing disease. Studies show that immunity stays strong for at least seven years.

Chickenpox is also preventable by vaccine. The vaccine debuted in the United States in 1995. The routine recommendation is for children to receive the first dose at age 12 to 15 months and the second dose at age 4 to 6 years. Other groups may also be eligible.

Summary

Shingles is a skin rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). VZV also causes chickenpox, and anyone who has ever had chickenpox can develop shingles later in life. About a third of Americans will develop shingles at some point in their lifetime. Herpes zoster is about 33% more common among women and about 50% less common among Black Americans. The risk of shingles increases drastically with age. About 50% of new shingles cases are among people aged 60 and older.

Shingles causes fewer than 100 deaths in the United States each year. Among people who are hospitalized for herpes zoster, about one-third are immunocompromised or elderly. The Shingrix vaccine is highly effective in preventing shingles and its complications. It is recommended for people age 50 and over and for those who are immunocompromised at age 19 and over.

18 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (herpes zoster).

  2. MedlinePlus. Shingles.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Signs and symptoms of shingles (herpes zoster).

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Complications of shingles (herpes zoster).

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About shingles (herpes zoster).

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles surveillance, trends, deaths.

  7. John AR, Canaday DH. Herpes zoster in the older adult. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2017;31(4):811-826. doi:10.1016/j.idc.2017.07.016

  8. Johnson BH, Palmer L, Gatwood J, Lenhart G, Kawai K, Acosta CJ. Annual incidence rates of herpes zoster among an immunocompetent population in the United States. BMC Infect Dis. 2015;15:502. doi:10.1186/s12879-015-1262-8

  9. National Institute on Aging. Shingles.

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Clinical overview of herpes zoster (shingles).

  11. Marra F, Parhar K, Huang B, Vadlamudi N. Risk factors for herpes zoster infection: a meta-analysis. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2020;7(1):ofaa005. doi:10.1093/ofid/ofaa005

  12. Baxter R, Bartlett J, Fireman B, et al. Long-term effectiveness of the live zoster vaccine in preventing shingles: a cohort study. Am J Epidemiol. 2018;187(1):161-169. doi:10.1093/aje/kwx245

  13. Kang H, Ailshire J, Crimmins E. The prevalence of shingles among older adults in the U.S. Gerontologist. 2015;56(3):48. doi:10.1093/geront/gnw162.199

  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention of herpes zoster - recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

  15. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Treating shingles (herpes zoster).

  16. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles vaccination: what everyone should know.

  17. Maltz F, Fidler B. Shingrix: a new herpes zoster vaccine. P T. 2019;44(7):406-433.

  18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chickenpox vaccination: what everyone should know.

By Laura Dorwart
Laura Dorwart is a health journalist with particular interests in mental health, pregnancy-related conditions, and disability rights. She has published work in VICE, SELF, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Week, HuffPost, BuzzFeed Reader, Catapult, Pacific Standard, Health.com, Insider, Forbes.com, TalkPoverty, and many other outlets.