A characterization of pain in racially and ethnically diverse older adults: a review of the literature

J Appl Gerontol. 2014 Apr;33(3):258-90. doi: 10.1177/0733464812459372. Epub 2012 Sep 17.


This article presents a critical review of the influence of interracial and ethnic variation on pain prevalence, intensity, interference/function/disability, and treatment in older adults. A search of scientific databases published from 1900 to 2011, using key words associated with pain, geriatrics, and race/ethnicity, identified 180 articles, of which 27 empirical studies met the inclusion criteria. Of the retained articles, 17 reported that race/ethnicity was a statistically significant factor at p < .05. Minority older adults reported a higher prevalence of pain and higher pain intensity, and variable responses regarding function/disability compared with responses by non-Hispanic White older adults. Minority older adults were less likely to receive prescription pharmacologic treatments and surgery, and they were more likely to use complementary and alternative medicine treatments. There are interracial/ethnic differences in pain assessment and treatment interventions among older adults.

Keywords: disparity; ethnicity; older adults; pain; race.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Humans
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Measurement*
  • Pain Perception
  • Pain* / diagnosis
  • Pain* / ethnology
  • Pain* / physiopathology
  • Pain* / psychology
  • Prevalence