Pain and Psychological Function in Late Life

  • Patricia A. Parmelee
Part of the The Springer Series in Adult Development and Aging book series (SSAD)


Perhaps the most creative of ongoing attempts to resolve the conundrum of objectively defining an internal event is McCaffrey’s (1979) often-cited statement that “pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is and exists whenever he says it does” (p. 8). This delightfully obtuse definition is an especially appropriate introduction to this chapter because it telegraphs the inherently phenomenological nature of pain. Psychological processes are inextricable from pain experience across the life span, but they may be especially crucial to understanding pain in late life. Aging almost inevitably brings with it some aches and pains, but the experience and effects of pain vary markedly across individuals. Of course, some sources of this diversity are quite obvious; the most notable is health status. But as we shall soon see, objective factors account for only a small portion of variability in pain and its effects. Psychological factors play an equal and perhaps even greater role in shaping the experience, expression, and effects of pain among older adults.


Chronic Pain Anxiety Disorder Pain Behavior Late Life Chronic Pain Patient 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia A. Parmelee
    • 1
  1. 1.Polish Research InstitutePhiladelphia Geriatric CenterPhiladelphiaUSA

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