January 29, 2005

With Age Comes Pain Tolerance

Older adults cope with it better than younger adults, study finds

HealthDayNews -- Older adults seem better able to cope with chronic pain than younger adults, say researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of South Florida.

Their study of 5,823 black and white adults found those under the age of 50 appear less able to cope with chronic pain and to be more prone to depression associated with chronic pain than adults over age 50.

The researchers also found that, in general, blacks scored higher than whites on measurements of pain intensity, pain-related disability and symptoms of depression.

The findings appear in a special January issue of Pain Medicine.

"Our study suggests that age is a significant factor across races and ethnicities, and that the impact of pain may differ even with racial and ethnic groups," study senior author Dr. Carmen R. Green, a University of Michigan pain specialist, said in a prepared statement.

This pain "generation gap" may be the result of a combination of generational characteristics and attitudes, life experiences, and age-related health expectations, Green said. But more research is needed to confirm that.

"Older people may feel that pain is just something that you deal with, perhaps because they were raised in a time when pain was not addressed in the way we deal with it today, or because they feel that pain is just a normal part of getting older," Green said.

"But younger people, who may be dealing with job and family stress in addition to their pain, may experience more negative effects. They may also have different expectations about pain treatment and about experiencing chronic pain at a relatively young age. This is particularly important because the prevalence of chronic pain is increasing," she said.

More information

University of Michigan

University of South Florida

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about chronic pain.