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Original article| Volume 94, ISSUE 9, P1707-1717, September 2019

Gender Differences in Pain Risk in Old Age: Magnitude and Contributors



      To identify the factors associated with the excess risk of pain observed among older women compared with men.

      Patients and Methods

      We used information from a cohort of 851 women and men age 63 years and older who were free of pain during 2012 and were followed up to December 31, 2015. Sociodemographic variables, health behaviors, psychosocial factors, morbidity, and functional limitations were assessed in 2012 during home visits. Incident pain in 2015 was classified according to its frequency, intensity, and number of localizations into lowest, middle, and highest categories.


      During a mean follow-up of 2.8 years, the incidence of middle and highest pain was 12.5% and 22.6% in women and 12.4% and 12.6% in men, respectively. The age-adjusted relative risk ratios and 95% CIs of middle and highest pain in women versus men were 1.20 (0.79-1.83) and 2.03 (1.40-2.94), respectively. In a mediation analysis, a higher frequency in women than men of osteomuscular disease, impaired mobility, and impaired agility accounted, respectively, for 31.1%, 46.6%, and 32.0% of the excess risk of highest pain in women compared with men. Other relevant mediators were psychological distress (25.2%), depression (8.7%), poor sleep quality (10.7%), and lower recreational physical activity (12.6%).


      A greater frequency of some chronic diseases, worse functional status, psychological distress, and lower physical activity can mediate the excess risk of pain in older women compared with men.

      Trial Registration Identifier: NCT02804672

      Abbreviations and Acronyms:

      BMI (body mass index), IADL (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living), MEDAS (Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener), RRR (relative risk ratio)
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      • In the Limelight: September 2019
        Mayo Clinic ProceedingsVol. 94Issue 9
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