More than two-fifths of people in Britain suffer from some form of chronic pain by the time they are in their mid-40s, research suggests.
Scientists have found that persistent bodily pain at this age is also associated with poor health outcomes in later life – such as being more vulnerable to Covid-19 infection and experiencing depression.
The findings, published in the journal Plos One, suggest chronic pain at age 44 is linked to very severe pain at age 51 and joblessness in later life.
The research is based on more than 12,000 people born in a single week in March 1958 in Britain who were followed until the age of 62.
Study co-author Professor Alex Bryson, of University College London’s Social Research Institute, said: “Chronic pain is a very serious problem affecting a large number of people.
“Tracking a birth cohort across their life course, we find chronic pain is highly persistent and is associated with poor mental health outcomes later in life including depression, as well as leading to poorer general health and joblessness.
“We hope that our research sheds light on this issue and its wide-ranging impacts, and that it is taken more seriously by policymakers.”
The study, funded by the Health Foundation, found that two-fifths (41%) of people reported suffering chronic pain – defined as pain lasting for at least three months – by the time they reached their mid-40s.
Results also showed those suffering with chronic pain at age 44 were more likely to be unhappy by age 50 and experience depression at age 55.
The survey indicated chronic pain to be associated with a higher likelihood of Covid-19 infection 20 years later, in 2021.
The scientists also found a link between Covid-19 infection and educational qualifications – results showed 50% of those with no qualifications had chronic pain compared with 36% of those with a degree and 27% of those who had a higher degree.