Chronic pain and obesity in elderly people: Results from the einstein aging study

Lucas H. Mccarthy, Marcelo E. Bigal, Mindy Katz, Carol Derby, Richard B. Lipton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence of chronic pain in elderly people and its relationship with obesity and associated comorbidities and risk factors. DESIGN: Cross-sectional. SETTING: Community. PARTICIPANTS: A representative community sample of 840 subjects aged 70 and older. MEASUREMENTS: The prevalence of chronic pain and its relationship with obesity (categories defined according to body mass index (BMI)), other medical risk factors, and psychiatric comorbidities were examined. Chronic pain was defined as pain of at least moderate severity (≥4 on a 10-point scale) some, most, or all of the time for the previous 3 months. RESULTS: The sample was mostly female (62.8%), and the average age was 80 (range 70-101). The prevalence of chronic pain was 52% (39.7% in men; 58.9% in women). Subjects with chronic pain were more likely to report a diagnosis of depression (odds ratio (OR)=2.5, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.40-4.55) and anxiety (OR=2.3, 95% CI=1.22-4.64). Obese subjects (BMI 30-34.9) were twice as likely (OR=2.1, 95%CI=1.33-3.28) and severely obese subjects (BMI≥35) were more than four times as likely (OR=4.5, 95% CI=1.85-12.63) as those of normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9) to have chronic pain. Obese subjects were significantly more likely to have chronic pain in the head, neck or shoulder, back, legs or feet, and abdomen or pelvis than subjects who were not obese. In multivariate models, obesity (OR=2.0, 95% CI=1.27-3.26) and severe obesity (OR=4.1, 95% CI=1.57-10.82) were associated with chronic pain after adjusting for age, sex, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, depression, anxiety, and education. CONCLUSION: Chronic pain is common in this elderly population, affects women more than men, and is highly associated with obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-119
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Chronic pain
  • Elderly
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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