Pain and its relation to depressive symptoms in frail older people living in the community: an observational study.

Research paper by Francesco F Landi, Graziano G Onder, Matteo M Cesari, Andrea A Russo, Christian C Barillaro, Roberto R Bernabei,

Indexed on: 23 Mar '05Published on: 23 Mar '05Published in: Journal of Pain and Symptom Management


The association of pain and depression represents an important health problem that is correlated with high rates of disability, morbidity, greater consumption of health care resources, and socioeconomic difficulties. Understanding the interaction between pain and depression is an important issue in light of the fact that physicians frequently fail to accurately assess and diagnose pain symptoms, and that elderly patients suffering from pain are particularly likely to receive inaccurate treatments. The aim of the present study was to describe the prevalence of pain and to investigate the association between pain and depressive symptoms in a representative sample of frail elderly people living in the community (n=5,372). The results show that more than 15% and 40% of elderly patients experienced pain less than daily and daily, respectively. The average score on the depression scale was significantly lower in patients without pain (2.5+/-2.5) than patients with less than daily and daily pain (3.2+/-2.5 and 3.6+/-2.5, respectively) (P<0.001). Without substantial differences between men and women, the rate of each depressive symptom was significantly and progressively higher among patients suffering less than daily and daily pain compared to those without pain. In conclusion, this study provides evidence from a large sample of frail elderly people that individuals suffering pain present an elevated risk to experience depressive symptoms. Treatment models that put together the assessment and the treatment of both pain and depression are indispensable for better outcomes.