skip to Main Content
Chronic Pain Linked To Increased Risk Of Dementia In Study Of Older Adults

Chronic pain linked to increased risk of dementia in study of older adults

Researchers at UC San Francisco have found that older people with persistent pain show quicker declines in memory as they age and are more likely to have dementia years later, an indication that chronic pain could somehow be related to changes in the brain that contribute to dementia.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, appears to be the first to make this association.

The researchers analyzed data from 10,000 participants aged 60 and up over a 12-year period. Those participants who said they were persistently troubled by moderate or severe pain in both 1998 and 2000 declined 9.2 percent faster in tests of memory function over the next 10 years than those who said they were not troubled by pain. The patients who complained about persistent pain also had a small but significantly increased likelihood of developing dementia overall.

Researchers found that the additional amount of memory decline in those who reported persistent pain suggested that these patients would likely have had a harder time with tasks of daily living, such as independently managing their medications and finances.

Elizabeth Whitlock, MD, MSc, a postdoctoral fellow in the UCSF Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care and the first author of the study, said the findings point toward new ways of thinking about how to protect older people from the cognitive insults of aging.

“Elderly people need to maintain their cognition to stay independent,” she said. “Up to one in three older people suffer from chronic pain, so understanding the relationship between pain and cognitive decline is an important first step toward finding ways to help this population.”

The research, conducted in collaboration with members of UCSF’s Division of Geriatrics, suggests three potentially overlapping reasons for the association…

Leave a Reply