The epidemiology of pain in elderly people

Clin Geriatr Med. 2001 Aug;17(3):417-31, v. doi: 10.1016/s0749-0690(05)70078-1.


Acute pain probably occurs at much the same rate across all age groups. On the other hand, self-report of chronic pain seems to increase up to, but not beyond, the seventh decade of life. Chronic pain in older people is more often experienced in major joints, the back, legs and feet, whereas visceral pain and headache are reported less often. There is a divergence between an increasing load of pain-associated disease and a plateau of chronic pain complaint in old age that probably reflects impairment in the nociceptive function of the nervous system. However, the contribution of social, behavioral, cognitive, and affective dimensions of the pain experience to this divergence between disease and pain have not been fully evaluated. Most of the answers to these and other questions require longitudinal studies with pain as the predominant focus of attention rather than addressing the symptom of pain as an ancillary measure relevant to other aspects of aging.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / epidemiology*