Ethnicity and pain: psychosocial stress and stress Responses Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Mechlin, Mary Beth
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • The purpose of this study was to examine biopsychosocial factors related to ethnic differences in pain sensitivity. Forty-four African Americans (22 men, 22 women) and 44 non-Hispanic Whites (22 men, 22 women), recruited to be of equivalent SES, were tested for pain sensitivity to ischemic pain, cold pressor pain, and the temporal summation of heat pulses. There were no ethnic differences in perceived stress, but African Americans reported more frequent discrimination than non-Hispanic Whites. African Americans had similar pain thresholds, but lower pain tolerance to both the ischemic and cold pressor pain tasks. Additionally, African Americans exhibited enhanced temporal summation relative to non-Hispanic Whites. When examining ethnic differences in cardiovascular and neuroendocrine variables, African Americans had lower baseline cortisol than non-Hispanic Whites. However, there were no ethnic differences in blood pressure, norepinephrine, or cortisol responses to stress. Regression analyses indicated that, biological variables (heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and norepinephrine) predicted pain sensitivity in non-Hispanic Whites, while psychosocial variables (income, education, discrimination) predicted pain sensitivity in African Americans. The results of these studies suggest that there may be ethnically-related differences in biopsychosocial pain regulatory mechanisms.
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  • Girdler, Susan S.
  • Open access

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