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Papers of the Week

Papers: 25 Mar 2023 - 31 Mar 2023

Clinical, Psychology

Human Studies


2023 Mar 30



Chronic pain patients low in social connectedness report higher pain and need deeper pressure for pain relief.


Baumgartner JN, Haupt MR, Case LK


The experience of rejection and disconnection reliably amplifies pain. Yet, little is known about the impact of enduring feelings of closeness, or social connectedness, on experiences of chronic pain. The current secondary analysis tested the hypothesis that greater social connectedness would predict lower chronic pain ratings, mediated by lower depression and anxiety. In addition, based on the social-affective effects of deeper pressure, and our previous finding that deeper pressure from a weighted blanket reduced chronic pain ratings, we examined whether deeper pressure from a weighted blanket would induce greater pain relief in socially disconnected chronic pain patients. We assessed social connectedness, anxiety, and depression at baseline and pain levels before and after a remote, 7-day randomized-controlled trial of a heavy or light (control) weighted blanket in a predominately White (86%) and female (80%) sample of 95 chronic pain patients. Results revealed that lower social connectedness was associated with higher chronic pain ratings, which was mediated by anxiety, but not depression. Pressure level (light vs. deep) moderated associations between social connectedness and pain reductions, such that deeper pressure was necessary for pain relief in the most socially disconnected participants. Our findings suggest a close relationship between social connectedness and chronic pain through a mechanistic pathway of anxiety. Furthermore, our findings demonstrate that sensory-affective interventions such as a weighted blanket may be a beneficial tool for chronic pain sufferers who are prone to social disconnection, potentially by activating embodied representations of safety and social support. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).