Pain Robs Years From Folks at Mid-Life

People in their 50s act more like 80 if they're suffering: study

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TUESDAY, Oct. 6, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Middle-aged people who suffer from chronic pain face some of the same limitations that much older people do, with similar challenges for mobility or making it through daily chores, a new study finds.

Researchers looked at a 2004 study that examined 18,531 participants aged 50 and older. Twenty-four percent were often troubled by moderate or severe pain, and they had much more trouble coping with physical challenges of life.

Only 9 percent of those aged 50 to 59 with pain were able to jog one mile, compared to 37 percent of the other participants. And only 50 percent could walk several blocks without problems, compared to 91 percent of the others without pain.

"We found that the abilities of those aged 50 to 59 with pain were far more comparable to subjects aged 80 to 89 without pain, of whom 4 percent were able to jog one mile and 55 percent were able to walk several blocks, making pain sufferers appear 20 to 30 years older than non-pain sufferers," said the study's lead author, Dr. Kenneth Covinsky, of the division of geriatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, in a prepared statement.

The study structure didn't allow researchers to determine whether pain directly causes disability or whether the reverse is the case. "We think it is likely that both are true and that pain and disability probably can act together in ways that make both problems worsen in a downward spiral," Covinsky said.

The findings appear in the September issue of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

More information

Learn more about chronic pain from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

SOURCE: Wiley-Blackwell, news release, Sept. 16, 2009

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