Pain in the elderly and cognition: state of play

Geriatr Psychol Neuropsychiatr Vieil. 2017 Dec 1;15(4):345-356. doi: 10.1684/pnv.2017.0702.


Cognitive impairment is commonly associated with the pain experience. This deterioration regarding several cognitive domains such as attention, speed of information processing, memory, learning and executive functions, represents a major obstacle to daily activities and mobility especially in the elderly for whom a decrease in mobility is a significant risk factor for death and disability. Regarding the demographic rising in the elderly population expected by 2050 (the proportion of persons aged 60 and above is expected to double according to ONU estimate) and the high prevalence of pain in this age reaching 80% in nursing homes, clinicians should be better aware of the links between pain and cognition in this population's segment so that they offer each patient an appropriate treatment. The objective of this review is to draw up an inventory of knowledge and differences between general population and elderly population on the complex relationship between these two phenomena, the contribution of imaging in the understanding of this link and the role of attitudes, beliefs and opioids on pain perception and cognition.

Keywords: beliefs; cognition; older adults; pain; perception.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders / complications*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / complications*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Management*