Relationship between persistent pain and 5-year mortality: a population-based prospective cohort study

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2013 Dec;61(12):2135-41. doi: 10.1111/jgs.12554. Epub 2013 Dec 9.


Objectives: To assess the association between self-reported noncancer pain and 5-year mortality.

Design: Cohort.

Setting: Community-dwelling older adults.

Participants: Canadian Study of Health and Aging 1996 wave.

Measurements: Registrar of Vital Statistics-established 5-year mortality. Noncancer pain was assessed using the 5-point verbal descriptor scale, dichotomized into no or very mild versus moderate, severe, or very severe pain. Frailty was the accumulation of health deficits. Cognitive status (Modified Mini-Mental State Examination) and depressed mood (five-item mental health screening questionnaire) were also assessed. Multivariable logistic regression and Cox proportional hazards were used to analyze the relationship between pain and 5-year mortality.

Results: Of 5,703 participants, 4,694 (82.3%) had complete data for analysis; 1,663 of these (35.4%) reported moderate, severe, or very severe pain, and 1,343 (28.6%) had died at 5-year follow-up. Four hundred ninety-six of those who died (29.8%) reported moderate, severe, or very severe pain and 847 (27.9%) no or very mild pain. Multivariate logistic analysis found that individuals with moderate, severe, or very severe pain had lower odds of 5-year mortality than those with no or very mild pain (odds ratio=0.78, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.66-0.92; P<.001). The risk of death was lower in persons reporting moderate or greater pain than in those with no or very mild pain (HR=0.85, 95% CI=0.75-0.96; P=.01). An interaction between pain and sex explained this effect. Men with pain were not significantly more likely than men without pain to die (HR=1.00, 95% CI=0.84-1.19; P=.99), whereas women without pain (HR=0.54, 95% CI=0.47-0.63; P<0.01) and women with pain (HR=0.40; CI=0.33-0.47; P<.01) had less risk of death than men without and with pain, respectively.

Conclusion: Older women with pain were less likely to die within 5 years than older women without pain, men in pain, or men without pain.

Keywords: mortality; older adult; pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / mortality*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires