Impact of Aging


Lead Author(s): 

Kern Singh, MD
Gunnar Andersson, MD, PhD

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I. Watkins-Castillo, PhD

Persons aged 45-64 years self-report the presence of back and neck pain during a previous 3-month period in the highest numbers, at almost 27.9 million cases. Although a smaller number due to the smaller population cohort, when comparing the prevalence of all back pain, age groups 45-64 years and 65 years and older are almost identical, roughly 39% of each age group. (Reference Table 2A.1 PDF CSV)

Healthcare visits for back disorders to doctors, emergency departments, outpatient clinics, and hospital discharges show a steady rise as the population ages up to 64 years. After that, it drops slightly. Older persons with back pain disorder are more likely to be hospitalized than are younger persons, and to stay an average of 0.5 days longer than younger persons aged 18 to 64 years. Average charges for hospital stays with a diagnosis of back pain also increase with age. While the prevalence of neck disorders is significantly lower, aging also has a large impact on the number of healthcare visits for neck pain. (Reference Table 2A.2.2 PDF CSV and Table 2A.10.2 PDF CSV)

Limitations of daily living due to chronic back pain increase in prevalence as the population ages. Back pain is listed as a cause of limitations by 6.4% of persons 65 and older, compared to 2.7% of the total population. Back pain represents the cause of limitations for roughly 1 in 5 persons with limitations due to any cause for both all persons and those age 65 and older (19.7% and 19.2%, respectively). (Reference Table 2A.11.2 PDF CSV)

Back pain is a major health concern to older people. As the population ages, back pain becomes an increasing burden on the healthcare system.


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