The prevalence of pain and pain interference in a general population of older adults: cross-sectional findings from the North Staffordshire Osteoarthritis Project (NorStOP)

Pain. 2004 Jul;110(1-2):361-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2004.04.017.


Although pain is experienced at all ages, there is uncertainty about the pattern of its occurrence in older people. We have investigated the prevalence of three aspects of self-reported pain-occurrence of any recent pain, number and location of pain sites, and interference with daily life-to determine their association with age in older people. A cross-sectional postal survey of all adults aged 50 years and over registered with three general practices (n = 11230) in North Staffordshire using self-complete questionnaires was conducted. Respondents' gender, age, employment status, socio-economic classification, and general health status were gathered to characterise the population under study. The location of any recent pain (past 4 weeks) was recorded on a full-body manikin and pain interference was based on a single question. Completed questionnaires were received from 7878 respondents (adjusted response of 71.3%). The 4-week prevalence of any pain was 72.4%; similar across 10-year age-groups, and higher in females than males. In those with pain the median number of painful areas (from 44) was 6, and 12.5% of the responding population were classified as having widespread pain, both figures similar across age-groups. Most regional pains showed a decline in prevalence in the older age-groups, the exceptions being the lower limb regions (hip, knee, foot). Pain that interfered with daily activities was reported by 3002 (38.1%) respondents overall. There was a clear age-related rise in this prevalence with age up to and including the oldest group. Within each regional pain subgroup, the proportion of people who also reported pain interference rose with age. Our study has provided evidence that increasing age in the elderly population is not associated with any change in the overall prevalence of pain, although, as previous studies have suggested, the pattern of pain prevalence in different body regions does change with age. More importantly the extent to which pain interferes with everyday life increases incrementally with age up to the oldest age-group in the community-dwelling general population.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Age Distribution
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / physiopathology*
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors
  • Sickness Impact Profile
  • Socioeconomic Factors