Comparing the experiential and psychosocial dimensions of chronic pain in African Americans and Caucasians: Findings from a national community sample

Linda S. Ruehlman, Paul Karoly, Craig Newton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Scopus citations


Objectives. To ascertain whether non-Hispanic African American and Caucasian chronic pain sufferers differ or converge in their self-reports of pain experience and pain adjustment. Research design. A telephone survey of U.S. English-speaking adults selected via random-digit dialing procedures and constrained to locate persons with chronic pain within selected gender by age groupings. Subjects. A national sample of 2,407 participants contained a total of 214 non-Hispanic African Americans. A sample of 214 non-Hispanic Caucasians was randomly selected from the larger set of 1,935 Caucasian participants to serve as a comparison group for the present study. Measures. Participants provided responses to interviewer questions that assessed pain experience (severity, interference, and emotional burden) and psychosocial outcomes (coping, attitudes and beliefs, catastrophizing, social support and hindrance, pain's interference with daily life activities, treatment status, and medication taking). Results. Although African American and Caucasian adults with chronic pain did not differ significantly in pain severity, interference, emotional burden, or current treatment status, multivariate analyses revealed differences in several domains of psychosocial functioning. Compared to Caucasians, African Americans reported greater pain-related interference with daily living, deficiencies in coping, and counterproductive attitudes and beliefs. African Americans also reported greater impatience and insensitivity from the most important person in their lives. Conclusions. Psychosocial dimensions of chronic pain differed between community-residing African American and Caucasian adults surveyed as part of a national sample.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-60
Number of pages12
JournalPain Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005



  • Chronic pain
  • Coping
  • Pain attitudes
  • Pain context model
  • Racial differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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