Ethnic Differences and Responses to Pain in Healthy Young Adults

Authors

  • Barbara A. Hastie PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Florida College of Dentistry, Division of Public Health Services and Research, Gainesville, Florida;
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  • Joseph L. Riley PhD,

    1. University of Florida College of Dentistry, Division of Public Health Services and Research, Gainesville, Florida;
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  • Roger B. Fillingim PhD

    1. University of Florida College of Dentistry, Division of Public Health Services and Research, Gainesville, Florida;
    2. Malcom Randall VA Medical Center, Gainesville, Florida, USA
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  • 1

    From henceforth in this article, Non-Hispanic whites will be referred to as “whites” for brevity.

Reprint requests to: Barbara A. Hastie, PhD, University of Florida College of Dentistry, Division of Public Health Services and Research, 1600 SW Archer Road, HSC D8-37, PO Box 100404, Gainesville, FL 32610-0404, USA. Tel: (352) 392-9369; Fax: (352) 392-2672; E-mail: bhastie@dental.ufl.edu.

ABSTRACT

Ethnic disparities in pain have recently gained increasing attention; however, relatively few studies have examined ethnic differences in pain prevalence, and even fewer have addressed whether ethnic groups differ in their pain-reducing behaviors. Thus, this study investigated ethnic differences in pain prevalence and impact among healthy young African Americans, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic whites.1 Also, ethnic differences in pain-reducing behaviors were explored. Undergraduate students (N = 1,037) from three ethnic groups completed a telephone survey of recent pain experiences. Groups did not differ in overall pain frequency or severity; however, more African Americans reported chest and stomach region pain, whereas more Hispanics reported pain in the legs/feet. Significant group differences regarding pain-reducing behaviors emerged. More whites utilized self-care behaviors, compared to Hispanics and African Americans. Conversely, greater numbers of African Americans and Hispanics than whites reported having prayed to relieve pain. The predictors of the total number of pain-reducing behaviors used differed across ethnic groups. For whites, pain intensity and interference were the strongest predictors of pain-reducing behaviors. For African Americans, total pain sites, as well as interference and frustration, were significantly associated with pain-reducing behaviors, while among Hispanics, worry and frustration were the strongest predictors for total pain-reducing behaviors. These results suggest potentially important ethnic differences in patterns and predictors of pain-reducing actions, and their emergence in a healthy sample suggest that ethnic differences in pain-related responses predate the development of chronic pain. These findings may have important implications for understanding ethnic differences in responses to clinical pain and for tailoring treatment approaches to eliminate disparities.

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