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Papers of the Week

Papers: 9 Jan 2021 - 15 Jan 2021


Human Studies

2021 Jan 11

J Racial Ethn Health Disparities

The Association Between Adverse Life Events, Psychological Stress, and Pain-Promoting Affect and Cognitions in Native Americans: Results from the Oklahoma Study of Native American Pain Risk.


Huber FA, Kell PA, Kuhn BL, Lannon EW, Palit S, Payne MF, Hellman N, Sturycz CA, Güereca YM, Toledo TA, Demuth MJ, Hahn BJ, Shadlow JO, Rhudy JL
J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2021 Jan 11.
PMID: 33428157.


Native Americans (NAs) experience higher rates of chronic pain. To examine the mechanisms for this pain inequity, we have previously shown that NAs report higher levels of pain-related anxiety and pain catastrophizing, which are in turn related to pronociceptive (pain-promoting) processes. But, it is currently unclear why NAs would report greater pain-related anxiety and catastrophizing. Given that NAs are also more likely to experience adverse life events (ALEs) and associated psychological distress, it was hypothesized that higher anxiety/catastrophizing in NAs would be partially explained by higher rates of ALEs and psychological distress. Structural equation modeling was used to analyze these pathways (NA ethnicity ➔ ALEs ➔ psychological distress ➔ pain anxiety/catastrophizing) in 305 healthy, pain-free adults (N = 155 NAs, N = 150 non-Hispanic Whites [NHWs]). Pain-related anxiety and situational pain catastrophizing were assessed in response to a variety of painful tasks. The Life Events Checklist was used to assess cumulative exposure to ALEs that directly happened to each participant. A latent psychological distress variable was modeled from self-reported perceived stress and psychological symptoms. Results found that NAs experienced more ALEs and greater psychological distress which was associated with higher rates of pain-related anxiety and pain catastrophizing. Notably, NAs did not report greater psychological distress when controlling for ALE exposure. This suggests that a higher risk of chronic pain in NAs may be due, in part, to psychological distress, pain-related anxiety, and pain catastrophizing that are promoted by exposure to ALEs. These results highlight several targets for intervention to decrease NA pain risk.