Introduction Pain is an important indicator of health mainly among older adults. The aim of the present study is to describe the prevalence of pain and to examine the relationship between pain and disability in elderly.
Methods One-phase cross-sectional surveys of all residents aged 65 years and over (n=15 177) living in eight low- and middle-income countries. Pain was measured using three questions, about frequency, severity and extent of limitation associated with pain in the previous 4 weeks. Disability was assessed using the 12 item WHODAS 2.0. We calculated the crude and standardised prevalence of pain and used Poisson regression prevalence ratios, to estimate the association between pain and severe disability, and to generate population attributable prevalence fractions (PAPF).
Results The overall prevalence of pain—defined as any type of pain in the last 4 weeks - ranged between 15.1% (China) and 46.0% (Peru) in urban sites and between 33.5% (Peru) and 58.8% (India) in rural sites. Pain was associated with severe disability, prevalence ratio pooled estimate was 1.49 (95% CI 1.21 to 1.78), adjusted for depression, number of impairments and chronic disease diagnoses. The adjusted PAPF showed that 39.2% of severe disability could be explained by pain.
Conclusion The results show that the prevalence of pain in the elderly is high. Pain seems to be an important contributor to disability among older people. Pain in older people is an increasingly important health issue worldwide, and one that requires urgent worldwide attention from the public health and clinical perspectives.
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