Association between Chronic pain and Cognitive Deficits

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Association between Chronic pain and Cognitive Deficits

The findings of the recent study confirm that chronic pain is linked with accelerated memory decline and a higher possibility of dementia.

The prevalence of chronic pain is quite common among the elder individuals. It is found to be linked with cognitive deficits (memory decline, dementia) in cross-sectional studies. There has been lack of studies exploring the population-level association between chronic pain and longitudinal cognition. 

Whitlock EL and colleagues conducted a Cohort study to evaluate the association between chronic pain and cognitive decline. Data from biennial interviews of 10065 community-dwelling older individuals in the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study who were 62 or older in 2000 and answered pain and cognition questions in both 1998 and 2000 were included in the study. The data was analysed from June 24 to October 31, 2016.

The primary outcomes of the study were dementia probability and composite memory score measured by combining the neuropsychological test results and informant and proxy interviews, which were traced from 2000 to 2012. The relationship of chronic pain with the slope of the consequent cognitive trajectory was estimated by using linear mixed-effects models, with random slope and intercept for each participant, making adjustments for population characteristics and comorbidities measures in 2000 and employing sampling weights to describe the 2000 US population. The researchers hypothesised that persistent pain would estimate accelerated memory decline and a higher possibility of dementia. With an objective to quantify the effect of persistent pain on functional independence, the primary results of the study were combined with the data on the association between memory and ability to manage medications and finances independently.

At baseline, chronic pain affected 10.9% patients and was linked with serious symptoms of depression and more restrictions in daily activities. With subsequent covariate adjustment, chronic pain was linked with 9.2% more rapid memory decline compared to those without chronic pain. After ten years, the accelerated memory decline indicated a 15.9% higher relative risk of failure to manage medications and an 11.8% higher relative risk of failure to manage finances independently. After ten years, adjusted dementia probability rose 7.7% faster which turns to an absolute 2.2% increase in dementia possibility for those with chronic pain.


JAMA Intern Med. 2017 Jun 5

Link to the source:

The original title of the article:

Association Between Persistent Pain and Memory Decline and Dementia in a Longitudinal Cohort of Elders


Whitlock EL; Diaz-Ramirez LG et al.

Exploratory, Pain, Chronic, Longitudinal cohort study
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