IUPUI psychologists explore pain in Hispanic Americans

March 15, 2016, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Science

Hispanic Americans report fewer pain conditions compared with non-Hispanic white or black Americans, according to a critical review and analysis of more than 100 studies on pain experience and pain management among Hispanic Americans. The first work of its type was conducted by researchers from the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis led by clinical health psychologist Adam T. Hirsh.

While the IUPUI researchers found that Hispanic Americans reported fewer pain conditions, they also found that Hispanics reported greater pain sensitivity and less in laboratory-based studies than non-Hispanic white Americans.

Hispanic Americas were more likely than non-Hispanic whites to report using religious coping for . Hispanic Americans report frequently seeking nontraditional pain care outside of the United States and using off-label medications and "hot" treatments such as teas, herbs and massage.

Hispanic ethnicity, speaking Spanish as a primary language and lower levels of acculturation were found to be significant predictors of lower access to pain treatment.

Fifty-five million Hispanics live in the United States, representing almost 17 percent of the nation's population, but little is known about their pain-related experience.

"We know that Hispanic Americans' pain experiences are different from other Americans', but we don't know why," said Hirsh, an assistant professor of psychology. "Might these disparities be due to differences in pain processing, pain-coping strategies, cultural factors or a combination of these factors?"

To help answer this and other questions, the researchers summarized the perspectives of Hispanic-American patients and their health care providers, highlighting findings from the existing literature and gaps in need of future research. "The Pain Experience of Hispanic Americans: A Critical Literature Review and Conceptual Model" appears online ahead of print in The Journal of Pain. Authors in addition to Hirsh are graduate student Nicole A. Hollingshead, associate professor of psychology Leslie Ashburn-Nardo and associate professor of psychology Jesse C. Stewart, all of the School of Science at IUPUI.

The study was supported by grant R01MD008931 from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health.

One area underscored by the authors for future investigation is whether Hispanic Americans' cultural beliefs and attitudes serve as potential protective factors in the development of pain conditions. Increased levels of social support, mental health and work satisfaction have been shown to affect for Americans in general. Does the Hispanic culture's emphasis on family and work values play similar protective roles against the development of chronic pain? What role does machismo play?

Exploring nonmalignant pain, pain behaviors and pain treatment-seeking among Hispanic Americans, the IUPUI researchers reviewed a total of 117 peer-reviewed studies. Hispanic Americans reported fewer pain conditions—lower rates of chronic pain, neck pain, acute and , joint and muscle disorder-type pain, lower- and upper-extremity pain, and diagnosed arthritis—compared with non-Hispanics.

Non-pain research has shown that Hispanic-American workers have very low rates of short-term work loss but the highest rate of long-term work loss, according to Hirsh. "This suggests that in the short term, Hispanic Americans are pushing through pain, but it catches up to them in the long term," he said. "This needs future exploration, as does the impact of acculturation—the adoption of the behaviors, beliefs and cultural elements of the dominant group in the society."

Hispanic Americans face numerous barriers to pain care including financial constraints, lack of insurance, insufficient English-language fluency and problematic immigration status.

Hispanics in the U.S. have a median age of 28 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The median age of non-Hispanic whites is 42 and of non-Hispanic blacks is 33. Because pain, particularly chronic pain, conditions are more common among older adults, the IUPUI researchers point out that age may play some role in the observed ethnic differences in pain prevalence and that the age factor should be explored.

"There may be biological reasons, psychological reasons, social reasons and system-level reasons why Hispanic Americans appear to experience pain differently from other groups and why their treatment for pain may differ," said Hirsh. "Pain is the number-one reason Americans go to the doctor and a significant cause of disability. It's important for all of us—including the clinicians who treat them—to gain a clearer understanding of and its treatment in the rapidly growing Hispanic population in the United States."

According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.

Explore further: Analysis finds differences in pain coping between black and white Americans

Related Stories

Analysis finds differences in pain coping between black and white Americans

February 22, 2016
Researchers led by Adam T. Hirsh of the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis report that black and white Americans cope with pain differently and that blacks employ pain coping strategies ...

Terminology of chronic pain published

February 9, 2016
The Journal of Pain Research has published the commentary "Terminology of chronic pain: the need to "level the playing field".

Study finds women suffer more neck pain than men

March 8, 2016
Women are 1.38 times more likely than men to report neck pain due to cervical degenerative disc disease, according to a study of adult patients treated at Loyola Medicine's Pain Management Center.

Minority patients less likely to receive analgesic medications for abdominal pain

November 17, 2015
New research indicates that minority patients seeking care in the emergency department were 22-30 percent less likely than white patients to receive analgesic medication.

Pain in knee osteoarthritis differs by ethnicity

May 9, 2014
(HealthDay)—Clinical pain and experimental pain differ by race and ethnicity among older adults with knee osteoarthritis (OA), according to research published online April 11 in Arthritis & Rheumatology.

Hispanic women who identify as white are healthier than those who don't

March 10, 2016
Hispanic women who identify as Black or another race have worse functional health than their counterparts who identify as White, according to new research. Out today, this research is part of a new special issue of Research ...

Recommended for you

Study compares athlete and truck driver, identical twins

July 20, 2018
When it comes to being fit, are genes or lifestyle—nature or nurture—more important? Researchers at San Francisco State University, CSU Fullerton and Cal Poly, Pomona removed the nature part of the equation by studying ...

Secondhand smoke causing thousands of still births in developing countries

July 20, 2018
The study reveals that more than 40% of all pregnant women in Pakistan are exposed to secondhand smoke—causing approximately 17,000 still births in a year.

Eating iron-fortified grain improves students' attention, memory

July 18, 2018
Adolescent students in a rural school in India who consumed an iron-biofortified version of the grain pearl millet exhibited improved attention and memory compared to those who consumed conventional pearl millet, according ...

Sugar improves memory in over-60s, helping them work smarter

July 18, 2018
Sugar improves memory in older adults – and makes them more motivated to perform difficult tasks at full capacity – according to new research by the University of Warwick.

Vaping tied to blood clots—in mice

July 18, 2018
A new study involving mice raises another concern about the danger of e-cigarettes in humans after experiments showed that short-term exposure to the device's vapors appeared to increase the risk of clot formation.

Lowering hospitals' Medicare costs proves difficult

July 18, 2018
A payment system that provides financial incentives for hospitals that reduce health-care costs for Medicare patients did not lower costs as intended, according to a new study led by Washington University School of Medicine ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.