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Pain is not associated with cognitive decline in older adults: A four-year longitudinal study

Pain is not associated with cognitive decline in older adults: A four-year longitudinal study

Veronese, Nicola, Koyanagi, Ai, Solmi, Marco, Thompson, Trevor ORCID: 0000-0001-9880-782X, Maggi, Stefania, Schofield, Patricia, Mueller, Christoph, Gale, Catharine R., Cooper, Cyrus and Stubbs, Brendon (2018) Pain is not associated with cognitive decline in older adults: A four-year longitudinal study. Maturitas, 115. pp. 92-96. ISSN 0378-5122 (Print), 1873-4111 (Online) (doi:

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The finding of a potential association between pain and cognitive decline is limited to a few cross- sectional studies with relatively samples. We therefore aimed to investigate whether the presence and severity of pain at baseline could predict a decline in cognitive function over four years of follow-up in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. At baseline, participants with no dementia who were “often troubled by pain” were considered to have pain. Pain severity was categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. Cognitive function was explored through verbal fluency (assessed by
asking how many different animals the participants could name in 60 seconds), memory (sum of immediate and delayed verbal memory) and processing speed (number of target letters correctly identified on the letter cancellation task). Multivariable linear regression was used (exposure: pain; outcomes: cognitive change between follow-up and baseline, based on standardized residuals). Altogether, 6,515 community-dwelling people with a mean age of 65 years (women=57.3%) were included. Over a 4-year follow-up, after adjusting for 26 potential confounders, no association between pain (yes vs. no) and verbal fluency (beta=0.02; 95%CI: -0.15 to 0.18), memory (0.05; 95%CI: -0.28 to 0.38), or processing speed (0.55; 95%CI: --18.4 to 2.93) at follow-up was found. Only severe pain was associated with greater decline in memory (-0.36; 95%CI: -0.68 to -0.04). In conclusion, in older people, pain was not associated with worsening in cognition, except for severe pain, which was marginally associated with worsening in memory tests. Further longitudinal studies are needed to confirm or refute our findings.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Pain; Memory; Cognitive decline; Elderly
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Education & Health
Faculty of Education & Health > Applied Psychology Research Group
Faculty of Education & Health > Department of Psychology, Social Work & Counselling
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2018 15:56
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None

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