Women aged 50 years and older who experience worsening pain with aging also are at higher risk for depression, obesity, and declining physical function, according to researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. They noted that the prevalence of pain among women at midlife or older is as high as 70% in published studies.
The researchers sought to identify the psychosocial, demographic, and clinical factors that can predict changes in pain and functioning among postmenopausal women with recurrent pain conditions. They examined data from the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study Cohort, a national study that monitored more than 93,000 women aged 50 to 79 years for up to 12 years.
Recurrent pain was reported by 75% of the patients, and 40% said that their pain was worse after 3 years compared with baseline levels. Women who were receiving opioid analgesics were more likely to report a lack of improvement in pain relief and worsened physical functioning after 3 years. A positive screen for depression at baseline was associated with worsening pain at year 3.
The authors concluded that several factors were associated with worsening pain and physical function over the 3-year period, including elevated body mass index, reflecting excess weight and obesity; depression; and more medical comorbidities. Their findings support previous recommendations for screening and treating for depression in women with recurrent pain conditions and paying attention to weight management. The research was reported in The Journal of Pain, a journal of the American Pain Society.