Racial/ethnic differences in the experience of chronic pain

Pain. 2002 Dec;100(3):291-298. doi: 10.1016/S0304-3959(02)00306-8.


The purpose of this study was to examine racial/ethnic-related differences in a four-stage model of the processing of chronic pain. The subjects were 1557 chronic pain patients (White=1084, African American=473) evaluated at a pain management clinic at a large southeastern university medical center. Using an analysis of covariance controlling for pain duration and education, African American patients reported significantly higher levels of pain unpleasantness, emotional response to pain, and pain behavior, but not pain intensity than Whites. Differences were largest for the unpleasantness and emotion measures, particularly depression and fear. The groups differed by approximately 1.0 visual analogue scale unit, a magnitude that may be clinically significant. Racial/ethnic differences in the linear relationship between stages were also tested using structural equation modeling and LISREL-8. The results indicate differences in linear associations between pain measures with African Americans showing a stronger link between emotions and pain behavior than Whites.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / classification
  • Pain / ethnology*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Clinics
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Pain Measurement / psychology
  • Pain Threshold / ethnology
  • Pain Threshold / psychology
  • Virginia / epidemiology
  • Whites / psychology*