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Sociodemographic disparities and potential biases in persistent pain estimates: findings from 5 waves of the Irish longitudinal study on ageing (TILDA)

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posted on 2024-01-09, 16:32 authored by Eva RyanEva Ryan, Ailish HanniganAilish Hannigan, H. Grol-Prkopczyk, P. May, Helen PurtillHelen Purtill

Background: Pain is a prevalent, debilitating condition among older adults. Much evidence on this topic comes from cohort studies, which may be affected by attrition and measurement bias. Little is known about the impact of these biases on pain estimates for European older adults. Additionally, there is a lack of longitudinal research on pain and sociodemographic disparities in Irish older adults. Methods: We analysed data from 8171 participants (aged ≥50 at baseline) across five waves of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing. Longitudinal pain severity and sociodemographic disparities in pain were explored visually and using a latent growth curve model. Using multivariate logistic regression, we examined bias due to attrition at later waves associated with reported pain at Wave 1. Measurement biases due to reporting heterogeneity were assessed by investigating associations between sociodemographic factors and pain-related disability for given pain levels. Results: Wave 1 severe pain was associated with increased odds of attrition due to death by Wave 5 (AOR: 1.63, 95% CI: 1.20, 2.19). Not having private health insurance was associated with increased odds of pain-related disability at Wave 1, controlling for pain severity (AOR: 1.37, 95% CI: 1.15, 1.64). These results suggested mortality bias and reporting heterogeneity measurement bias, respectively. Sex, education level, and private health insurance status disparities in pain were observed longitudinally. Conclusions: Mortality bias and reporting heterogeneity measurement bias must be accounted for to improve older adult pain estimates. There is a need for policymakers to address sociodemographic disparities in older adult pain levels. Significance: This study highlights a need to address bias in the estimation of pain in observational studies of older adults. Understanding the sources and extent of these biases is important so that health practices and policies to address pain disparities can be guided by accurate estimates. Women, those with lower educational attainment, and those without private health insurance were found to have the highest pain burden longitudinally, suggesting a need for targeted interventions for these groups in Ireland and internationally


SFI Centre for Research Training in Foundations of Data Science

Science Foundation Ireland

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National Institute on Aging

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European Journal of Pain


John Wiley & Sons Ltd

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  • Health Research Institute (HRI)

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  • (3) Good Health and Well-being

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  • Mathematics & Statistics
  • School of Medicine

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