Resilience moderates the association between chronic pain and depressive symptoms in the elderly

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Abstract

Background:

Chronic pain is frequent in elderly people and, especially if widespread, associated with poor mental health. We investigated whether a resilient personality protects older adults against the adverse effects of chronic pain.

Methods:

Pain status [no pain, chronic local pain (CLP) and chronic widespread pain (CWP)] was determined using the American College of Rheumatologists' criteria for widespread pain in a cross-sectional sample of 724 participants aged 68–92 years drawn from the population-based KORA-Age study in Southern Germany. Depressive symptoms and resilience were assessed via the scales GDS-15 and RS-5. The relation between pain, resilience and depressive symptoms was modelled using logistic and quantile regression.

Results:

CLP prevalence and CWP prevalence were 57.5% and 12.3%, respectively. Confounder-adjusted logistic regression indicated a fourfold risk of depressed mood (GDS-15 ≥ 5) in CWP, vs. no pain (OR = 4.08, 95% CI 1.90–8.74). However, in quantile regression, the adverse effect of CWP was significantly attenuated by resilience when looking at the GDS-15 score lower quartile (p = 0.011) and median (p = 0.011). This effect appeared to be mainly driven by participants aged 75–84 years. Confounder adjustment reduced the effect of CLP on depressive symptoms to non-significance, and effect modification by resilience was undetectable in regression models of CLP.

Conclusions:

Resilience was protective in the association of CWP with depressive symptoms in this analysis. Older adults with CWP may potentially benefit from interventions supporting resilience. Prospective research should investigate the protective role of resilience in the potentially self-perpetuating relation between chronic pain and depressed affect.

What does this study add?:

The association of chronic widespread pain with depressive symptoms in the elderly population is attenuated by resilience.

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