Study Shows High Rate of Chronic Pain in Homeless Older Adults

Newswise — CHICAGO, Oct. 11, 2017 -- Almost half of older homeless adults are believed to suffer from longstanding chronic pain, mostly associated with post-traumatic stress syndrome, arthritis and physical abuse, according to research reported in The Journal of Pain, published by the American Pain Society,

Results of the study showed that one in two homeless adults interviewed for the study of 350 said they had chronic moderate to severe chronic pain, and 75 percent them said their pain had lasted five years or longer.  Consistent with previous research, the study showed chronic pain was linked with a history of being victims, violence, having arthritis and PTSD symptoms.  However, there was no association between chronic pain and substance abuse, depression or number of chronic medical conditions, other than arthritis.

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco and San Francisco General Hospital studied homeless adults 50 years and older from overnight centers, homeless encampments and meal programs in Oakland.  They conducted interviews at a community-based center that provided social services.  The research was designed to describe the severity and duration of pain and its association with demographic and clinical characteristics.

“People who are homeless experience challenging physical environments, exposure to the elements, crowded shelters and violence.  As all of these factors could contribute to the presence or severity of pain, we hypothesized that homeless adults in the sample would report a high prevalence of moderate to severe chronic pain,” said study co-author Margot Kushel, M.D., professor of medicine, University of California San Francisco.

The median age for homeless adults is approximately 50, and they have an earlier onset of age-related problems, such as functional and cognitive impairments, than the general population.  More than 500,000 people are homeless in the United States at any time and more than 3 million experience homelessness in a given year.  

The authors noted the study provides the first estimates of chronic pain in a high risk, but poorly understood population.  They concluded that the high prevalence of chronic pain in homeless adults 50 years and older will require public health interventions that address pain and mental health problems in this growing populations.

About the American Pain Society

Based in Chicago, the American Pain Society (APS) is a multidisciplinary community that brings together a diverse group of scientists, clinicians and other professionals to increase the knowledge of pain and transform public policy and clinical practice to reduce pain-related suffering.  APS is the professional home for investigators involved in all aspects of pain research including basic, translational, clinical and health services research to obtain the support and inspiration they need to flourish professionally.  APS strongly advocates expansion of high quality pain research to help advance science to achieve effective and responsible pain relief.  For more information on APS, visit  




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