Chronic pain a big issue for seniors: StatsCan

Chronic pain is a major problem for seniors, dramatically affecting their quality of life, a new Statistics Canada study finds.

Chronic pain is a major problem for seniors, dramatically affecting their quality of life, a new Statistics Canada study finds.

Chronic pain affects 27 per cent of seniors living in private homes, according to StatsCan's 2005 data, and 38 per cent of seniors living in health-care institutions, according to 1996/1997 data.

The National Population Health Survey found that seniors who saw their pain increase over a two-year period were more likely to be unhappy or have a negative impression of their personal health at the end of that period.

The study found that chronic pain interfered with the activities seniors could perform, with 54 per cent of those living in households reporting it interfered with most of the activities they did. In institutions, 64 per cent reported that it interfered with most activities.

Women more likely to report pain

The study found that women were more likely than men to report suffering from chronic pain, if they lived in a home or institution. However, women and men in institutions were evenly split in reporting moderate to severe pain.

Lower education and income also contributed to a higher reporting rate of chronic pain. Thirty-three per cent of seniors in institutions who had a high school diploma experienced chronic pain versus 41 per cent of those who did not graduate from high school.

In home settings, 23 per cent of high school graduates reported chronic pain versus 30 per cent with less education.

By 2031, the study says, there will be approximately 8.9 to 9.4 million seniors in Canada, representing almost 25 per cent of the population. This will mean that the issue of chronic pain will intensify.

"With an aging population, there is a need for chronic pain studies that focus specifically on seniors, including those residing in private households as well as in long-term health-care institutions," reads the study.

"Seniors likely accept that many diseases cannot be cured, but would experience a better quality of life if their pain could be adequately assessed and controlled."