Older adults seem better able to cope with chronic pain than younger adults, say researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of South Florida.

Study Results

The researchers' study of 5,823 adults found that those under the age of 50 appeared less able to cope with chronic pain. They also seemed to be more prone to the depression that often accompanies chronic pain compared with adults older than 50 years.

"Our study suggests that age is a significant factor across races and ethnicities," says the study's senior author Dr. Carmen R. Green, a University of Michigan pain specialist.

Possible Explanation

This pain "generation gap" may be the result of a combination of generational characteristics and attitudes, life experiences and age-related health expectations, Green suggests.

"Older people may feel that pain is just something that you deal with, perhaps because they were raised in a time when pain was not addressed in the way we deal with it today, or because they feel that pain is just a normal part of getting older," Green says. More research is needed to confirm this theory.

"But younger people, who may be dealing with job and family stress in addition to their pain, may experience more negative effects," Green continues. They may also have different expectations about pain treatment and about experiencing chronic pain at a relatively young age. This is particularly important because the prevalence of chronic pain is increasing.”

Want to Keep Reading?

Continue reading with a Health Confidential membership.

Sign up now Already have an account? Sign in