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Pain. 2004 Dec;112(3):397-405.

Social networks and pain interference with daily activities in middle and old age.

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Primary Care Sciences Research Centre, Keele University, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK.


Social networks have emerged as important in the development and progression of disability in aging cohorts. We have previously reported that pain that interferes with daily activities is common and increases incrementally from middle age into later life. The current study has investigated whether pain interference in this age group is related to social network characteristics. 5215 community-dwelling adults aged 50 years and over participating in the North Staffordshire Osteoarthritis Project (NorStOP) and identified as currently experiencing pain formed the sample for the present analysis. Questions on pain-related interference and the number and frequency of contact with children, close relatives, close friends, and confidant were included in the baseline postal questionnaire. The number and frequency of contact for most social ties declined with age. Being widowed (Age-adjusted OR: 1.30; 95%CI: 1.10, 1.54), the absence of close friends (2.07; 1.64, 2.63), and the absence of close relatives for women (2.24; 1.66, 3.04) were associated with increased likelihood of pain interference with daily activities. The absence of children was linked to lower levels of pain interference (0.76; 0.64, 0.91). The associations with close friends and children were reduced but remained significant after adjusting for sociodemographic factors. The association with close friends became non-significant after adjusting for depression suggesting this may form part of the pathway linking close friends networks and pain interference. Pain-related interference shows similar associations with social networks as all-cause disability and may benefit similarly from a public health perspective.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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