Social Contact Frequency and Pain among Older Adults with HIV: An Ecological Momentary Assessment Study

Ann Behav Med. 2022 Feb 11;56(2):168-175. doi: 10.1093/abm/kaab037.


Background: Social relationships are important for pain management among individuals with HIV, but the impact of daily social contact on pain responses in real-time, real-world settings has never been specifically examined.

Purpose: The purpose of the present study was to examine the relationship between social contact frequency and pain, and the role of negative and positive affect in this relationship among older adults with HIV using ecological momentary assessment (EMA).

Methods: A total of 66 (Mage = 59.3, SD = 6.3, range: 50-74) older adults with HIV completed EMA surveys that included social contact frequency, pain level, and negative and positive affect four times per day for 2 weeks. Mixed-effects regression models were used to examine concurrent and lagged associations between social contact frequency, pain, and negative and positive affect.

Results: Greater recent social contact frequency was associated with less severe current pain (unstandardized B = -0.04, 95% CI: -0.08, -0.01, p = .014), while greater current pain was associated with lower subsequent social contact frequency (unstandardized B = -0.07, 95% CI: -0.11, -0.03, p < .001). Further, higher current negative affect was related to greater current pain, and this relationship was dampened by increased recent social contact frequency (unstandardized B = -0.17, 95% CI: -0.26, -0.08, p < .001). Neither negative nor positive affect was significantly associated with the relationship between current pain and subsequent social contact frequency.

Conclusions: Social contact frequency and pain are bidirectionally and inversely associated among older adults with HIV. Further, recent social contact influences current pain by attenuating negative affect. Together, these results highlight the need to address social engagement in interventions for pain among older adults with HIV.

Keywords: Ambulatory assessment; Chronic illness; Loneliness; Mobile health; Mood; Social engagement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment*
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Pain / complications