Little is known about cognitive and behavioral factors that influence older adults' adjustment to chronic pain. The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship of self-efficacy for managing pain to reports of pain intensity, pain-related disability, depressive symptoms, and pain coping strategy use among 140 retirement community residents (88% female; age mean = 81.7, range 66-99 years) with chronic pain. The 8-item Arthritis Self-Efficacy Scale, modified to specify pain rather than arthritis, demonstrated good psychometric characteristics (Cronbach alpha = .89, minimal floor and ceiling effects, and validity) in this sample. Controlling for age, gender, and pain intensity, self-efficacy was associated significantly and negatively with pain-related disability and depressive symptoms (P values < .001), and positively with use of pain coping strategies previously found to be associated with better outcomes (task persistence, exercise/stretch, coping self-statements, activity pacing; P values < .05). Self-efficacy for managing pain appears to be important in the adjustment of older adults with pain. Research is needed to determine whether interventions designed to increase self-efficacy improve quality of life and prevent functional declines in this population.
Perspective: Among retirement community residents (mean age of 82 years) with chronic pain, higher self-efficacy for managing pain is associated with less disability and depression and with the use of pain coping strategies related to better adjustment. This suggests the potential value of interventions to increase self-efficacy in this population.