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Clin J Pain. 2003 Jul-Aug;19(4):247-54.

Widowhood and other demographic associations of pain in independent older people.

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National Ageing Research Institute, Parkville Victoria Melbourne, Australia.



To determine if psychosocial factors, as suggested by the demographic variables of widowhood and living alone, are associated with pain, particularly severe pain, in a representative sample of independent older people.


One thousand older people (65+) randomly selected from independent residents living in a major city were surveyed about their health status (Health Status of Older People Study). Demographic characteristics, including age, gender, education, income, living alone, widowhood, and childlessness, were analyzed by logistic regression for their association with pain report of differing severity. Path analysis was used to confirm the association with pain severity and further define the role of mood disturbance in mediating this relationship.


The prevalence of any pain report for the preceding 12 months was 56.3%. This was reduced when using more restrictive criteria, such that moderate-to-severe pain "at worst" and "at present" was found in 48.7% and 4.1% of the sample, respectively. After adjusting for type 1 error rate, the status of living alone was primarily associated with moderate-to-severe pain at worst, and being a widow(er) was associated with moderate-to-severe pain at present. The latter association had an estimated odds ratio greater than 3 and was characterized by more recent bereavement. Using path analysis, the model that severe pain was secondary to mood disturbance of widowhood, particularly recent bereavement, was tested and confirmed. The model explained 17% of the variance of pain severity in widow(er)s.


The mood disturbance related to spousal bereavement aggravates pain in older people. This lends support to the biopsychosocial model of pain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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