Numerous studies have examined the roles of pain catastrophizing (PCS), pain-related fear (FPQ), hypervigilance or somatosensory amplification (SSAS), and/or negative affect (NA), providing normative values for these traits in young adults. However, relatively few studies have assessed these traits in young versus old adults. Thus, it is not clear whether similar normative values should be expected in older adults. To address this question, we performed secondary analyses on two data sets collected separately in young adults (N = 230, mean[SD] age 27.7 [10.7], range 18 – 55 yrs) and old adults (N = 236, 72.8 [5.9], range 65 – 95 yrs). Each cohort was asked to complete several written surveys, including the PCS, FPQ, SSAS and the Positive Affect Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS). No differences were observed in the proportion of men and women in each cohort (64% F), but more older adults reported having pain (39.8% vs. 31.3%, p = 0.02). Using two-way (age, sex) multivariate ANOVA, PCS, SSAS, and NA were all significantly lower in the older adults (effect sizes d = 0.7, 0.5, and 0.7, respectively, p < 0.001) whereas FPQ was not age-dependent (p = 0.065). Fear was higher in females than males (p < 0.001). The only significant interaction between age and sex occurred for catastrophizing (p = 0.013), where the age-related difference in PCS was larger for females. Overall, these findings indicate that despite a higher incidence of pain, older adults report lower levels of pain-related negative-valence traits. Thus, normative values appear to differ between these two aged cohorts for PCS, SSAS and NA, but not for FPQ. This information may be important to consider when assessing for “elevated” levels of these traits in older adults. This work was supported in part by grants from NIH (K01AR056134; F31 AR056175).
© 2013 Published by Elsevier Inc.