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Widespread Pain Development In Older People Strongly Linked To Poor Sleep Quality

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As we advance in age, many of us start experiencing musculoskeletal pain. Widespread pain in multiple areas of the body, which is a key feature of fibromyalgia, is estimated to affect 15% of women and 10% of men aged 50 or over. Among those over 65, up to 80% are estimated to experience musculoskeletal pain on a daily basis. According to a new study by Keele University researchers, poor quality sleep greatly increases the risk of widespread pain onset among older people.

With support from Arthritis Research UK and under the leadership of Dr John McBeth, the research team studied 4,326 adults aged over 50. The goal was to determine the key factors that increase the risk of widespread pain development later in life. Among the study participants, 1,562 entered the project with no pain complaints and 2,764 reported some pain. The subjects were monitored for three years, with researchers focusing on factors that contribute to the development of widespread pain. In order to determine these, McBeth and his colleagues gathered information on pain, psychological health, physical condition and lifestyle, as well as demographic data.

At the follow-up three years later, the research team found that 19% of the subjects, or 800 people, had developed new widespread pain. When the results were analysed it emerged that lack of restorative sleep was the strongest factor affecting the risk of widespread pain onset among older adults. After the results were adjusted to reflect the impact of osteoarthritis, the researchers also established that the risk was heightened by factors such as anxiety, quality of life in relation to physical health and cognitive complaint.