Pain management is a significant problem for adults aged 65 or older in the United States, new study results indicate.

Disability in the group is a major predictor of future needs for people in the cohort, according to results published in PAIN, the journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain. Investigating risk factors for functional decline will impact the care, treatment and possibly reduce costs for the growing age group, report authors noted. Most pain issues were experienced in multiple areas, such as the back, hips and knees.

Researchers interviewed 7,601 people in their homes, or in residential care facilities in 2011.

The overall prevalence of “bothersome pain” in the study group was 52.9%. Women and older adults with obesity, musculoskeletal conditions, and depressive symptoms reported more incidences of pain. Almost three-quarters of older adults with pain reported multiple sites.

“Considering that pain is often poorly managed in the geriatric population, our findings underscore the need for public health action, including additional epidemiologic research and the development and translation of interventions aimed at improving pain and function in older adults,” said Kushang V. Patel, Ph.D., MPH, of the Center for Pain Research on Impact, Measurement, and Effectiveness in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at the University of Washington.