Poor vitamin D status is common in older people and results in osteoporosis; osteomalacia is associated with a wide range of non-communicable diseases and has potential effects on poor health outcomes. Pain is also common in older people and can be substantially disabling. The aim of the present analysis is to investigate associations between serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25(OH)D) and self-reported current symptoms of pain in a cross-sectional, nationally representative sample of 2070 adults aged ≥ 65 years living in the community in England in 2005. Measurements included serum 25(OH)D, pain status and covariates, namely, age, sex, social class, season of examination, use of vitamin supplements and physical health status. Results show that the symptoms of moderate/extreme pain (present in 53 % of the sample) were associated with poor vitamin D status, independent of other covariates. Particular advantages of the present study were the presence of directly measured vitamin D levels and a large and nationally representative sample. Poor vitamin D status is common and an associated risk factor for pain in older people living in northern latitudes. The direction of causation cannot be inferred from a cross-sectional study and further prospective research is required to clarify this. Regardless of the direction of causation, the relationship is potentially of high public health importance because of the adverse impact of both states on well-being. It is important that older people in pain are screened for vitamin D status and provided with appropriate interventions.