Two-fifths of British adults experience chronic pain in their mid-forties, a large study has found.

People who reported having short-term or chronic pain aged 44 were also more likely to experience pain and poor health in later life, researchers reported in PLOS ONE, but the association was much stronger for those with chronic pain.

Using long-term data from more than 12,000 people born in a single week in March 1958, researchers were able to identify those with pain at aged 44 and look at their health, wellbeing, and employment levels when they were aged 50 (during the 2008 recession) and aged 62 (in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic).

They found that 84% of people reporting they had very severe pain at age 50, had reported experiencing chronic pain at age 44.

Chronic pain at age 44 was also associated with a range of poor mental health outcomes at ages 50-62, including depression, pessimism about the future, malaise, and lower life satisfaction, as well as poor general health, poor sleep short sleep and joblessness.

'Of particular note is our finding that pain at age 44 predicts whether a respondent had Covid-19 at age 62. This suggests that pain is picking up broader vulnerabilities that make people susceptible to Covid-19),” the authors wrote.

The Health Foundation-funded study also found lowers levels of education were linked with increased pain at mid-life.

For example, 50% of those with no qualifications had chronic pain compared with 36% of those with a degree, and 27% of those who had a higher degree.

Researchers also found data suggesting pain is passed onto one generation from the next, with the social status of the respondent’s mother’s husband in 1958 predicting their pain levels in later life.

'Pain appears to be another source of inter-generational disadvantage, and one that is potentially as problematic as other aspects of social deprivation,' the authors concluded.

The study did not collect information about medication, the researchers added, however the fact pain persisted across the life course suggested it was not being adequately treated.

Study co-author Professor Alex Bryson, of UCL Social Research Institute in London, hoped the research would shed light on this issue and that policymakers would take it more seriously.

This comes after a large study conducted by Oxford Population Health found in August that statins, a cholesterol-lowering drug taken by eight million people in the UK, only rarely case muscle pains