Prevalence and Factors Associated with Pain in Nursing Home Residents: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Published:September 23, 2022DOI:



      To describe the pain prevalence in nursing home (NH) residents and the factors associated with the experience of pain.


      Systematic review of descriptive studies.

      Setting and Participants

      Three electronic databases were searched from 2010 to September 2020 in English. Descriptive studies that examined pain in NH residents, reported pain prevalence, and/or associated factors were included. Studies that focused exclusively on a specific disease or type of care such as cancer or hospice were excluded.


      Two reviewers independently screened, selected, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias from included studies; narrative synthesis was performed. The review was guided by the Biopsychosocial Model of Chronic Pain for Older Adults.


      Twenty-six studies met our inclusion criteria. Overall, the prevalence of current pain ranged from 22.2% to 85.0%, the prevalence of persistent pain ranged from 19.5% to 58.5%, and the prevalence of chronic pain ranged from 55.9% to 58.1%. A variety of pain scales were used reporting higher pain prevalence for those using self-report measures (31.8% to 78.8%) or proxy measures (29.5% to 85.0%) compared with using chart review (22.2% to 29.3%) as the source of pain information. The studies reviewed provide support that certain diseases and clinical conditions are associated with pain. Impairment in activities of daily living (ADL) (12 studies), cognition (9 studies), depression (9 studies), and arthritis (9 studies) are the most widely studied factors, whereas depression, ADL impairment, arthritis, dementia, and cognitive impairment present the strongest association with pain.

      Conclusion and Implications

      This review highlights the complexities of pain in NH residents and has implications for both clinical practice and future research. Understanding the factors that underlie the experience of pain, such as depression, is useful for clinicians evaluating pain and tailoring management therapies. In addition, the gaps in knowledge uncovered in this review are important areas for future research.


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