Inverse Association Between Neck Pain and All-Cause Mortality in Community-Dwelling Older Adults.

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Abstract

Objective

In a previous study, we found an apparent protective effect of neck pain on all-cause mortality in subjects older than age 85 years. The present longitudinal investigation was performed to verify this unexpected finding in a larger sample and to establish its significance.

Design

Population follow-up study.

Setting

Three towns of Northern Italy.

Subjects

We examined 5,253 community-dwelling residents age 65-102 years (55% female).

Methods

Through a postal questionnaire, baseline information was obtained concerning cardiovascular risk factors, self-rated health, physical activity, cardiovascular events, medical therapy, and presence of pain in the main joints. Seven-year all-cause mortality was the end point.

Results

During follow-up, 1,250 people died. After adjustment for age, sex, anti-inflammatory drugs, physical activity, and main risk factors, neck pain was inversely associated with mortality (hazard ratio = 0.74, 95% confidence interval = 0.64-0.86, P < 0.001). This association was present, with high significance, in each of the eight following subgroups: men, women, age 65-74 years, age 75-84 years, age ≥85 years and residents of each of the three towns. The subjects without neck pain (N = 3,158) were older, more often men, less often hypercholesterolemic, less physically active, and had more frequently had a stroke than the subjects with neck pain (N = 2,095). There were no differences in the causes of death between subjects with or without neck pain.

Conclusions

This study has confirmed the existence of an independent inverse association between neck pain and mortality in the elderly, suggesting that reduced sensitivity to neck pain may be a new marker of frailty.

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