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Persistent pain may accelerate signs of aging by 2-3 decades in middle-aged adults

Woman holding leg in painYounger people with pain look similar in terms of their disability to people who are two to three decades older without pain, according to a study published in this month’s issue of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society. The results of the study uncovered that people with pain develop the functional limitations classically associated with aging at much earlier ages.

Functional limitations that impair the ability to live independently increase markedly with age, and to examine the effect researchers looked at the data from the 18,531 participants, aged 50 and older, who took part in the 2004 Health and Retirement Study. The four physical abilities considered were: mobility, for example walking or jogging; stair climbing; upper extremity tasks, and; activity of daily living (bathing, dressing, eating etc) with or without help.

24% of participants had significant pain (often troubled by pain that was moderate or severe most of the time) and across all four physical abilities looked at, participants with pain had much higher rates of functional limitations than subjects without pain. In the mobility function as an example, of subjects aged 50 to 59 without pain 37% were able to jog 1 mile and 91% were able to walk several blocks without difficulty, compared to only 9% and 50% respectively in those with pain.

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