Objective. Ethnic groups may experience or report pain differently; thus, we compared ethnic differences on pain coping strategies and control beliefs, and the relationships of these variables to health status, among women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods. Using a sample of 100 women (48 African-American, 52 Caucasian), we related pain coping strategies and control beliefs to pain severity, activity levels, and affective state, controlling for socioeconomics, behavioral impairment, and disease activity.
Results. Ethnic groups did not differ in pain severity or negative affect, but African-Americans were less physically active. African-Americans used more coping techniques involving diverting attention and praying/hoping; Caucasians used more coping techniques involving ignoring pain. The relationships of praying/hoping and reinterpreting pain to RA adjustment differed by ethnic group. In contrast, ignoring pain, coping statements, and stronger control beliefs predicted better health status, and diverting attention predicted more pain for all patients.
Conclusion. There are ethnic differences in the use of coping strategies that should be acknowledged when helping RA patients cope with their disease, but control beliefs and several coping strategies predict pain and adjustment, regardless of ethnicity.