Pain at age 44 years is associated with subsequent reported pain and poor general health, and chronic pain is associated with poor mental health outcomes, according to a study published online Nov. 2 in PLOS ONE.
David G. Blanchflower, Ph.D., from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Alex Bryson, from University College London, examined associations between short-term pain and chronic pain in midlife (age 44 years) and subsequent health, well-being, and labor market outcomes. The focus was on data obtained at age 50 years in 2008 at the time of the Great Recession, age 55 years in 2013, and age 62 years in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The researchers found that those suffering short-term and chronic pain at age 44 years reported pain and poor general health during their 50s and 60s. The associations were stronger for chronic pain. In addition, chronic pain, but not short-term pain, at age 44 years was associated with various poor mental health outcomes, pessimism about the future, and joblessness at age 55 years. Pain at age 44 years predicted whether a respondent had COVID-19.
“Pain appears to reflect other vulnerabilities as we find that chronic pain at age 44 predicts whether or not a respondent has COVID nearly twenty years later,” the authors write. “A major reason for taking chronic pain seriously is that it has sizeable and persistent effects on a whole range of health and well-being outcomes for people, including life expectancy.”