Modifiable Risk Factors for Incidence of Pain in Older Adults

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Pain symptoms in aging populations have significant public health impact. The aim of this study was to determine risk factors for the incidence of pain in older adults, focusing on those factors that can be modified. Secondary analyses were performed of survey data from the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study of US adults older than 50 years. Generalized estimating equations logistic regressions were used to evaluate the effect of selected variables on the incidence of pain using biennial (1992 through 2006) data, determining the relationship between the incidence of pain and the potential risk factors. Of the 18,439 survey respondents in 2006, 34.1% (95% CI: 33.2%, 35.0%) reported that they were often troubled by pain; 24.3% reported having moderate to severe pain; and 22.3% reported that their daily life was affected by pain. Between 1992 and 2006, 7967 individuals reported new onset of pain in 169,762 person-years of follow-up, an incidence of 4.69 (4.59, 4.80) per 100 person-years. Depression and being overweight were independent predictors associated with an increased likelihood of incident pain. Current smoking increased the likelihood of incident pain only in those subjects who also reported depression. In conclusion, pain is a common symptom in older adults. Depression, smoking, and overweight are potentially modifiable risk factors and could be considered in the prevention and management of pain in older adults.