Chronic pain in older adults: prevalence, incidence, and risk factors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objectives: Chronic pain is common in older adults, yet little is known of its development and the factors that predict its persistence and onset at old age. The aims of this longitudinal cohort study were to examine the prevalence and incidence of chronic pain and to explore possible risk factors for its persistence and onset in a representative sample of older Swedish adults. Method: Data were collected through questionnaires and followed up after 12 and 24 months. Chronic pain was defined as pain symptoms that lasted more than 3 months, regardless of the specific cause or site. Logistic regression analyses were used to identify odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for potential predictors. Results: Out of 2000 older adults approached (aged 65–103 years), 1141 were included in the study. Chronic pain was reported among 38.5% of the participants, and was more common among females and among adults over 85 years of age. The incidence was estimated to be 5.4% annually. Being female (OR 3.19, 95% CI 1.04–9.59), having a lower body mass index (BMI; OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.79–0.99), more than one pain location (OR 4.02, 95% CI 1.56–10.35), higher severity (OR 1.79, 95% CI 1.13–2.83), and longer duration (OR 1.08, 95% CI 1.01–1.15) were associated with the persistence of chronic pain, but this association did not remain significant for men when divided by gender. Younger age (OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.89–0.99) was associated with new onset of chronic pain. Conclusions: Even though pain was often highly prevalent and persistent, our results show that both recovery and onset of pain occurred. Pain characteristics, rather than age-related symptoms and psychosocial variables, predicted pain persistence among older women but not among older men. These findings highlight the importance of early pain management in the prevention of future pain.


External organisations
  • Skåne University Hospital
  • Stanford University
  • Lund University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Anesthesiology and Intensive Care
  • Geriatrics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-325
JournalScandinavian Journal of Rheumatology
Issue number4
Early online date2016 Nov 8
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch