The role of anxiety in pain is less well understood than the role of depression. Based on recent conceptual thinking about worry and pain, we explored the relationship between pain status and worry about health and anxiety in 1217 community-dwelling men aged 70 years or older who participated in the baseline phase of the Concord Health and Ageing in Men Project study, a large population-based epidemiological study of healthy ageing based in Sydney, Australia. We hypothesised that worry about health would be associated with having persistent pain, and that the association would be stronger in the presence of co-existing pain-related interference with activities (intrusive pain). Of men in the study, 12.5% had persistent and intrusive pain, 22.4% were worried about their health, and 6.3% had anxiety. We found a strong association between worry about health and pain that was both persistent and intrusive, and that remained after accounting for age, number of comorbidities, depression, self-rated health status, arthritis, and gait speed (adjusted odds ratio 2.9; 95% confidence interval 1.8–4.7), P < 0.0001). The corresponding adjusted odds ratio for the association between anxiety and pain was 2.3 (95% confidence interval 1.0–4.8; P = 0.0363). These findings suggest that at a population level, subthreshold anxiety and pain are strongly related, and worry about health occurs much more commonly than anxiety itself. To our knowledge, this is the first study to explore, specifically, the relationship between pain status and worry about health in older men.
In older community-dwelling men, pain was robustly associated with worry about health, highlighting the potential importance of subthreshold anxiety-related psychological factors.