Onset and persistence of disabling foot pain in community-dwelling older adults over a 3-year period: a prospective cohort study

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2011 Apr;66(4):474-80. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glq203. Epub 2010 Nov 24.


Background: Foot pain and related disability in older adults are common yet understudied problems. This study aimed to determine the onset and persistence of disabling foot pain in community-dwelling older adults over a 3-year period.

Methods: A 3-year follow-up postal survey was conducted in a population sample of older adults aged 50 years and older, recruited previously as part of the North Staffordshire Osteoarthritis Project. Disabling foot pain was defined as the report of problems on at least 1 of the 10 function items of the Manchester Foot Pain and Disability Index occurring on most/every day(s).

Results: Of persons without disabling foot pain at baseline, 8.1% had developed it at 3 years. Onset was greater with increasing age (50-59 years, 6.7%; 60-69 years, 9.1%; and ≥70 years, 9.5%; p = .037), in females (2.5% difference; 95% confidence interval 0.3%-4.8%), and in those with nondisabling foot pain at baseline than those without foot pain (14.2% difference; 95% confidence interval: 10.0%-19.1%). Persistence of disabling foot pain at 3 years was 71.7%, more common in females (9.3% difference; 95% confidence interval: 0.8%-18.0%) but not associated with age.

Conclusions: Accelerated onset with increasing age and frequent persistence suggests considerable public health impact of disabling foot pain as the population ages. Prevention of disabling foot pain in later life should be prioritized and predisposing factors identified as potential intervention targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Foot Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mobility Limitation*
  • Osteoarthritis / epidemiology
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Factors