A new study published this week in the open access journal shows that people who experience chronic pain at age 44 are more likely to report pain, poor general health, poor mental health and unemployment
in their fifties and sixties.
Chronic pain — pain that lasts at least three months — is a serious problem that affects many people: According to the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain
In the new study, researchers looked at people who took part in the National Child Development Survey, which surveyed
all people born within a week in England, Scotland and Wales in March 1958.
The pain data used primarily came from a biomedical survey conducted in 2003, when most of the 12,037 respondents were 44 years old
More health data
were collected in 2008, 2013 and 2021.
Overall, two-fifths of respondents in their 40s suffer from chronic pain
The study identified multiple factors that predict pain at this age, including the social status of a person's father at birth and pain
Both short-term and chronic pain at age 44 were associated with pain and poor health in later decades, with the strongest
association with chronic pain.
For example, of those who reported chronic pain at age 44, 84 percent still reported pain "very severe"
at age 50.
Chronic pain, as opposed to short-term pain, is also associated
with poor mental health outcomes, lower life satisfaction, pessimism about the future, poor sleep quality, and unemployment at age 55.
In addition, the researchers found that pain at age 44 could predict whether 62-year-old respondents in the 2021 survey were infected with COVID-19, suggesting that pain is associated
with broader health vulnerability.
The authors concluded that chronic pain exhibits persistence throughout the life course and is passed
on to some extent between generations.
The authors add: "Following the entire life course of a birth cohort, we found that chronic pain is highly persistent
It can lead to poor mental health in later life, including depression, and can also lead to deterioration in general health and unemployment
We hope this study highlights the need for academics and policymakers to pay more attention to chronic pain