Study Finds Chronic Pain Increases Risk of Developing Dementia

Chronic pain is a long-standing pain that occurs together with another chronic illness such as arthritis or cancer. Chronic pain has been linked to depression, anxiety, restrictions in mobility and daily activities, increased health care costs, poor quality of life and dependence on opioids. Now, new research has found that an individual’s risk of cognitive decline and dementia heightens if they suffer from chronic pain that lasts for more than three months.

The study was carried out by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. Professor Tu Yiheng, who was the study’s corresponding author, is a psychology professor at the institution.

For their study, the researchers obtained data from the UK Biobank of more than 19,000 individuals who have undergone brain scans, aged between 40 to 69 years old.

The researchers found that individuals with more than one pain site performed poorly on 7 out of eleven cognitive tasks, in comparison to those with no pain. Contrastingly, individuals with only a single pain site performed better when gauged on how well they could remember to perform a certain task in the future.

The researchers controlled for various conditions, including alcohol use, age, genetics, body mass, ethnicity, history of diabetes, cancer, heart problems, smoking status, medications and psychiatric symptoms, among others. It should be noted that exercise levels by participants was not controlled for.

The researchers focused on the hippocampus, which is a structure of the brain that plays a major role in memory and learning. This led them to discover that the hippocampus of one 60-year-old who suffered from chronic pain at one site aged by roughly one year, in comparison to an individual with no chronic pain.

The researchers also estimated that when the pain was felt in two places in a person’s body, the hippocampus aged by more than two years. The researchers also found that the risk of dementia rose as the number of pain sites increased, noting that the volume of the hippocampus was almost four times smaller in individuals with five or more pain sites, in comparison to individuals who experienced pain at only two sites. They equated this loss in volume to about eight years of aging.

The study’s findings were reported in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” ( PNAS) journal. Other researchers involved include Wenhui Zhao Lei Zhao and Xiangyu Chang.

Dr. Richard Isaacson, who was not involved in the study, highlighted that asking individuals about any chronic pain conditions they suffered from and advocating for their care by a specialist could help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

The treatments specifically targeting chronic pain being developed by enterprises such as India Globalization Capital Inc. (NYSE American: IGC) and other biopharma companies could come in handy in addressing this clinical need.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to India Globalization Capital Inc. (NYSE American: IGC) are available in the company’s newsroom at

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