A Chronic Pain Survey: Homeless Older Adults Living on the Streets

Study Documents High Incidence of Pain in this “Poorly Understood Population”

A fresh understanding of the experience of chronic pain in a poorly understood population demographic—homeless older adults—was provided by a study conducted by researchers from the University of California San Francisco and San Francisco General Hospital. The study found that almost 50% of subjects interviewed reported experiences of moderate to severe chronic pain, and 75% of these indicated a pain duration of 5 years or longer. Risk factors for pain included being a victim of violence or physical abuse, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and arthritis. No significant association was noted between incidence of pain and factors such as substance abuse, depression, or medical conditions other than arthritis. The findings were published in the Journal of Pain.

The study surveyed 350 adults aged 50 years and older from shelter and meal program facilities in Oakland. Co-author Margot Kushel, MD, professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, commented, “People who are homeless experience challenging physical environments, exposure to the elements, crowded shelters and violence. As all of these factors could contribute to the presence or severity of pain, we hypothesized that homeless adults in the sample would report a high prevalence of moderate to severe chronic pain.” The authors note national statistics estimating over 500,000 homeless in the US at any single point in time, and more than 3 million who experience homelessness in a given year. The findings highlight the need for public health interventions for the management of pain in a population that lacks widespread advocacy

Read a news story about the study findings. 

The research article may be read here.

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