Racial Disparity Seen in Elderly Women's Pain


WASHINGTON – Elderly women reported more pain than men, and black women reported more pain that limited their activity, compared with white women, in two studies totaling 3,800 patients, said Jana M. Mossey, Ph.D., at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America.

She examined two large quality of life studies for the prevalence and nature of pain complaints in minority elders in the community and in institutions. Overall, 60% of the patients had been diagnosed with degenerative joint pain, 47% had been diagnosed with low back pain, and 39% had been diagnosed with chronic pain.

No significant differences surfaced in the prevalence of pain between black males and white males (57% vs. 55%), reported Dr. Mossey, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia.

About 57% of minority elders reported pain–22% reported pain that did not limit their activities and 35% reported pain that did. The subjects included 600 community-dwelling adults older than 70 years in Philadelphia (300 African Americans and 300 non-Hispanic whites) and 3,200 chronic pain patients in rural Georgia (760 African Americans and 2,440 non-Hispanic whites).

Those who reported pain, regardless of ethnicity, were 10 times more likely to have poor physical function and three times more likely to use health services and to spend time sick in bed. However, community-dwelling minority elders who reported pain were more likely to be female, to have poorer physical and emotional function, and to have more medical problems.

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