A Cross-Sectional Study of the Impact of Pain in Older People with Frailty: Findings from the Community Ageing Research 75+ (CARE75+) Study

Publication authors

Lesley Brown, John Young, Elizabeth Teale, Gillian Santorelli, Andrew Clegg


Background: Pain prevalence is higher in older people with frailty compared to fit older people. However, little is known about pain impact on the lives of older people with frailty.

Objectives: To investigate pain impact in community dwelling older people (≥75 years) using data from the Community Ageing Research 75+ (CARE75+) cohort study (UKCRN 18043).

Methods: Participants were assessed as not frail, pre-frail or frail (phenotype model of frailty). Pain impact was measured using the Geriatric Pain Measure Short-Form (GPM-12), an instrument incorporating 10 items on how pain impacts on ambulation, social engagement, ability to accomplish tasks and sleep, along with current pain intensity and average pain intensity (last 7 days). Intrusive pain was calculated from an item in the Short-Form 36 questionnaire. Differences in the GPM-12 scores between frailty categories were compared using Kruskal-Wallis H tests. Logistic regression models were used to investigate the association between frailty and intrusive pain.

Results: 887 participants: not frail 139; pre-frail 471; and frail 268. Total GPM-12 median (IQR): not-frail 5.0 (0.0, 12.5); pre-frail 10.0 (0.0, 27.5); and frail 40.0 (10.0, 65.0) (p ≤ 0.0001). Current pain: not frail 0.0 (0.0, 1.0); pre-frail 0 (0.0, 3.0); and frail 3.0 (0.0, 5.0) (p ≤ 0.0001). Average pain: not-frail 0.0 (0.0, 2.0); pre-frail 1 (0.0, 4.0); frail 4.0 (2.0, 6.8) (p ≤ 0.0001). There was a strong association between being frail and intrusive pain (adjusted for sex, ethnicity, mood and high comorbid burden): OR 3.53 (95% CI 2.47, 5.04).

Conclusions: This research has identified an important new finding that pain in older people with frailty appears to be of sufficient severity to impact negatively on multiple aspects of day-to-day life.