Life Stressors: Elevations and Disparities Among Older Adults with Pain

Penny L Brennan
Pain Medicine 2020 September 21

OBJECTIVE: To examine stressor elevations among older adults with pain, and gender and race disparities in the dual burdens of late-life pain and stressors.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional.

SETTING: Community.

SUBJECTS: Participants in the Longitudinal Late-Life Health study (LLLH; N = 1,884) and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS; N = 7,704).

METHODS: Pain and stressor measures were harmonized across the LLLH and HRS samples. Analyses of covariance were conducted to determine the effects of older adults' pain, gender, race, and interactions between these factors, on their stressors in nine separate life domains, and in stressors overall.

RESULTS: In both the LLLH and HRS samples, older adults with painful conditions (joint, back, headache, chest pain), more numerous painful conditions, more severe pain, and more pain interference had elevated stressors in all life domains, compared with older adults without or with less serious pain. Pain was more prevalent among women and nonwhites than men and whites. Stressor exposure was higher for men than women in most life domains; it was higher for nonwhites than whites in all life domains. For certain types of pain and life domains, pain and gender, as well as pain and race, interacted to predict stressor elevations.

CONCLUSIONS: Late-life pain is associated with elevations in stressors, and there are gender and race disparities in the dual burdens of heightened pain and elevated stressors in later life. Pain and stressors are not consistently more strongly linked among older women than older men, or among older nonwhite than older white persons.

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