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Papers of the Week

Papers: 28 Oct 2023 - 3 Nov 2023


Psychol Res Behav Manag



The Interconnection Between Social Support and Emotional Distress Among Individuals with Chronic Pain: A Narrative Review.


Franqueiro AR, Yoon J, Crago MA, Curiel M, Wilson JM


Chronic pain is a public health concern affecting over 100 million U.S. adults. Because chronic pain is multifactorial, it requires a biopsychosocial approach to understand how biological, psychological, and social factors contribute to both the development and maintenance of pain. On average, individuals with chronic pain report higher levels of emotional distress compared to pain-free individuals. Research has demonstrated that social support is associated with better pain outcomes and less emotional distress. It has been proposed that social support may improve pain outcomes by reducing the influence of stressors. However, the majority of research exploring the relationships between social support and pain-related outcomes has focused on the direct relationship between these variables, largely overlooking the process by which social support has a positive influence on pain. This narrative review synthesizes research on how chronic pain, emotional distress, and social support are highly interconnected, yet research investigating chronic pain and emotional distress within a social context is limited. We then highlight disparities in chronic pain, such that the burden of chronic pain is unequal between demographic groups. Next, we discuss existing evidence for the use of group-based interventions to address pain-related outcomes. Lastly, we summarize limitations of prior research studies and highlight gaps in the current literature. Overall, longitudinal research comprehensively investigating the distinct nuances in the measurement of social support and how these nuances relate to emotional distress and pain outcomes is needed and may provide insight into the unique needs of individuals or subgroups. Further, demographically diverse randomized controlled trials are needed to identify the process by which group-based interventions improve pain outcomes and whether these interventions are more effective for particular groups in order to personalize treatment approaches and address inequities in pain care.