Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

The effect of age and gender on pressure pain thresholds and suprathreshold stimuli

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OBJECTIVES: The study investigates the impact of age and gender on (1) experimental pressure pain detection thresholds (PPDT) and pressure pain tolerance thresholds (PPTolT) and (2) participants' self-reports of pain intensity and unpleasantness at suprathreshold and subthreshold levels.

METHODS: twenty young (20-34, mean age = 24.6 ± 3.6 years, ten female) and twenty elderly (65-88, mean age = 73.6 ± 6.6 years, ten female) healthy volunteers were compared. Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE 28-30) assessed intact cognitive functioning. Pain thresholds were assessed together with the sensory intensity ratings to 1.3 x PPDT (pain) and 0.2 x PPDT (no pain).

RESULTS: PPDT and PPTolT significantly decreased with age and were lower in young females as compared with young males. No gender differences were observed in the elderly group. PPDT decreased significantly with age in males but not in females. Conversely, the intensity and unpleasantness of the pain stimulus were significantly rated lower in the elderly as compared with the young. No gender differences were observed in the report of intensity and unpleasantness of the stimulations.

DISCUSSION: A mismatch in pain sensitivity, tolerance, and pain self-reports was observed. Findings suggest that pain experiences in the elderly differ from the experiences in the young on multiple dimensions: sensory, affective, and cognitive. Findings may also indicate that the elderly appraise pain experiences using different psychological strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-96
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Adult, Age Factors, Aged, Female, Healthy Volunteers, Humans, Intelligence Tests, Male, Mental Competency, Pain Measurement, Pain Perception, Pain Threshold, Pressure, Research Design, Self Report, Sex Characteristics, Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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