Social Support and Pain Outcomes After Trauma Exposure Among Older Adults: A Multicenter Longitudinal Study

Clin J Pain. 2018 Apr;34(4):366-374. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000545.


Objectives: Certain forms of social support have been shown to improve pain-coping behaviors and pain outcomes in older adults with chronic pain, but little is known about the effect of social support on pain outcomes in older adults following trauma exposure.

Methods: We analyzed data from a prospective longitudinal study of adults aged 65 years and older presenting to an emergency department after a motor vehicle collision (MVC) to characterize the relationship between perceived social support and MVC-related pain after trauma overall and by subgroups based on sex, depressive symptoms, and marital status.

Results: In our sample (N=176), patients with low perceived social support had higher pain severity 6 weeks after MVC than patients with high perceived social support after adjustment for age, sex, race, and education (4.2 vs. 3.2, P=0.04). The protective effect of social support on pain severity at 6 weeks was more pronounced in men and in married individuals. Patients with low social support were less likely to receive an opioid prescription in the emergency department (15% vs. 32%, P=0.03), but there was no difference in opioid use at 6 weeks (22% vs. 20%, P=0.75).

Discussion: Among older adults experiencing trauma, low perceived social support was associated with higher levels of pain at 6 weeks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic*
  • Aged
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support*
  • Wounds and Injuries / physiopathology
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*