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Papers of the Week

2022 Jan 19


Beyond Black vs White: racial/ethnic disparities in chronic pain including Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and multiracial US adults.


Previous literature on race/ethnicity and pain has rarely included all major US racial groups or examined the sensitivity of findings to different pain operationalizations. Using data from the 2010 to 2018 National Health Interview Surveys on adults 18 years or older (N = 273,972), we calculated the weighted prevalence of 6 definitions of pain to provide a detailed description of chronic pain in White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and multiracial groups. We also estimated modified Poisson models to obtain relative disparities, net of demographic and socioeconomic (SES) factors including educational attainment, family income, and home ownership; finally, we calculated average predicted probabilities to show prevalence disparities in absolute terms. We found that Asian Americans showed the lowest pain prevalence across all pain definitions and model specifications. By contrast, Native American and multiracial adults had the highest pain prevalence. This excess pain was due to the lower SES among Native Americans but remained significant and unexplained among multiracial adults. The pain prevalence in White, Black, and Hispanic adults fell in between the 2 extremes. In this trio, Hispanics showed the lowest prevalence, an advantage not attributable to immigrant status or SES. Although most previous research focuses on Black-White comparisons, these 2 groups differ relatively little. Blacks report lower prevalence of less severe pain definitions than Whites but slightly higher prevalence of severe pain. Net of SES, however, Blacks experienced significantly lower pain across all definitions. Overall, racial disparities are larger than previously recognized once all major racial groups are included, and these disparities are largely consistent across different operationalizations of pain.