Newswise — GLENVIEW, Ill., Feb. 27, 2012 -- Women age 50 and older who experience worsening pain with aging also have a higher risk for depression, obesity and declining physical function, according to research reported in The Journal of Pain, the peer-review publication of the American Pain Society.

Persistent pain complaints are common among women at midlife or older, according to published studies that have shown pain prevalence in this population is as high as 70 percent. Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle sought to identify the psychosocial, demographic and clinical factors that can predict changes in pain and functioning among post-menopausal women with recurrent pain conditions. In their research, data was examined from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study Cohort, a national study that followed more than 93,000 women aged 50 to 79 for up to 12 years. Of the women enrolled in the national study, some 68,000 met the criteria for recurrent pain.

The Journal of Pain study found that recurrent pain was reported by 75 percent of the participants and 40 percent said their pain was worse after three years compared with baseline levels. Also, women taking opioid pain medications were more likely to report lack of improvement in pain relief and worsened physical functioning after three years. With regard to depression, a positive screen for depression at baseline was associated with worsening pain at year three.

The authors concluded several conditions were found to be associated with worsening pain and physical function over the three year period, including elevated BMI reflecting excess weight and obesity, depression and higher medical comorbidities. They added that their findings support prior recommendations advising doctors to screen and treat for depression in women with recurrent pain conditions and to pay close attention to weight management. In addition, clinicians should be aware that pain patients with declining physical function are at risk for worsening pain over time.

About the American Pain Society Based in Glenview, Ill., 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 was founded in 1978 with 510 charter members. From the outset, the group was conceived as a multidisciplinary organization. The Board of Directors includes physicians, nurses, psychologists, basic scientists, pharmacists, policy analysts and others. For more information on APS, visit


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The Journal of Pain