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Ethnic identity attitudes and pain sensitivity in sickle cell disease

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source: The Journal of Pain

year: 2014

authors: S. Bediako, V. Mathur, J. Haythornthwaite, C. Campbell


In the United States, sickle cell disease (SCD) predominantly affects individuals of African and Caribbean backgrounds – yet, the influence of important sociocultural variables on SCD pain are not well known. Prior research with healthy African Americans suggests that ethnic identity is associated with responses to experimental pain and, in some contexts, might be protective. Here, we evaluated the association between other-group orientation (OGO; an aspect of ethnic identity that assesses an individual’s attitude towards interactions with ethnic groups that are different from one’s own) and pain sensitivity in a sample of 64 African American adults living with SCD. Participants completed the Multi-group Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM) and also underwent a series of standardized laboratory pain procedures that were combined into a pain sensitivity index. Individuals who reported more positive attitudes toward interactions with other ethnic groups trended toward having lower pain sensitivity (r = -.27, p=.08). Further exploratory analyses evaluated whether openness to new experiences and positive affect mediated the relation between OGO and pain sensitivity. Combined, OGO and the proposed mediators accounted for a significant proportion of the variance in pain sensitivity (R2= .151, p=.02). Comparison of the total and direct effect coefficients (-.34, p=.02 and -.26, p=.09, respectively) indicates that both positive affect and openness to new experiences partially contribute to the total effect of OGO on pain sensitivity. These results suggest that individuals who are open to interactions with other groups may evince different patterns of help seeking to manage SCD pain compared to those who are less open to such interactions. Further research exploring the significance of these findings for clinical practice and pain management is warranted.

organization: University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD

DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2014.01.137

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