More than half of older adults in the U.S. reported experiencing bothersome pain often in multiple parts of the body in the past month that impaired their physical function, according to a recent study.
Longer life expectancy and aging baby boomers will increase the number of U.S. residents 65 and older to nearly 72 million during the next 25 years, according to the CDC. By 2030, older adults will make up nearly 20% of the U.S. population.
Pain is common in older adults, and one of the major reasons why we start slowing down as we age, lead investigator Kushang V. Patel, PhD, MPH, said in a news release. Patel works at the Center for Pain Research on Impact, Measurement, and Effectiveness in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.
For the study, published in the December 2013 issue of the journal Pain, Patel and colleagues analyzed data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study, which was designed to investigate multiple aspects of functioning in later life. It is funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health.
To collect the data, trained survey research staff completed in-person interviews with 7,601 adults ages 65 and older who were enrolled in the study in 2011. The interviews took place in the homes of study participants living in the community or in residential care facilities and included assessments for cognitive and physical performance. All participants were Medicare beneficiaries.
The findings showed the overall prevalence of bothersome pain during the past month in the study group was 52.9%. Pain did not vary across age groups, and this pattern remained unchanged when the researchers accounted for cognitive performance, dementia, proxy responses and residential-care living status. Pain prevalence was higher in women and in older adults with obesity, musculoskeletal conditions and depressive symptoms. The majority (74.9%) of older adults with pain reported multiple sites of pain, such as the back, hips and knees.
Pain and multisite pain were associated strongly with several measures of physical capacity, including muscle strength and lower-extremity physical performance. The study found self-reported inability to walk three blocks was 72% higher in participants who reported pain than those without pain. Participants with one, two, three and four or more painful sites were 41%, 57%, 81%, and 105% more likely to report inability to walk three blocks, respectively, than older adults without pain.
Considering that pain is often poorly managed in the geriatric population, our findings underscore the need for public health action, including additional epidemiologic research and the development and translation of interventions aimed at improving pain and function in older adults, Patel said in the release.
Study abstract: http://bit.ly/1dizZkb