Background: Chronic pain is common among older adults and is associated with cognitive
dysfunction based on cross-sectional studies. However, the longitudinal association between chronic
pain and incident dementia in community-based samples is unknown.
Objective: We aimed to evaluate the association of pain intensity and pain interference with incident
dementia in a community-based sample of older adults.
Methods: Participants were 1,114 individuals 70 years of age or older from Einstein Aging Study
(EAS), a longitudinal cohort study of community-dwelling older adults in the Bronx County, NY. The
primary outcome measure was incident dementia, diagnosed using DSM-IV criteria. Pain intensity and
interference in the month prior to first annual visit were measured using items from the SF-36 questionnaire.
Pain intensity and pain interference were assessed as predictors of time to incident dementia using
Cox proportionate hazards models while controlling for potential confounders.
Results: Among participants, 114 individuals developed dementia over an average 4.4 years (SD=3.1) of
follow-up. Models showed that pain intensity had no significant effect on time to developing dementia,
whereas higher levels of pain interference were associated with a higher risk of dementia. In the model
that included both pain intensity and interference as predictors of incident dementia, pain interference
had a significant effect on incident dementia, and pain intensity remained non-significant.
Conclusion: As a potential remediable risk factor, the mechanisms linking pain interference to cognitive
decline merit further exploration.