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Pain. 2007 May;129(1-2):177-84. Epub 2007 Feb 12.

Ethnic identity predicts experimental pain sensitivity in African Americans and Hispanics.

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  • 1University of Florida, College of Dentistry, FL, USA.


The aim of this study was to examine experimental pain sensitivity in three ethnic groups, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and non-Hispanic White Americans, and to determine whether ethnic identity is differentially associated with pain sensitivity across ethnic groups. Participants included sixty-three African American, sixty-one Hispanic and eighty-two non-Hispanic white participants who were assessed using three experimental pain measures: thermal, cold-pressor and ischemic. Participants' ethnic identity was assessed using the Multi-group Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM). Ethnic group differences in pain responses were observed, with African American and Hispanic subjects showing lower cold and heat pain tolerances than non-Hispanic White Americans. In addition, pain range (i.e. tolerance-threshold) was computed for heat, cold and ischemic pain, and the two minority groups again had lower values compared to non-Hispanic White Americans. Ethnic identity was associated with pain range only for African American and Hispanic groups. Statistically controlling for ethnic identity rendered some of the group differences in pain range non-significant. These findings indicate that ethnic identity is associated with pain sensitivity in ethnic minority groups, and may partially mediate group differences in pain perception. The results of the present investigation provide evidence of ethnic group differences in responses to experimental pain across multiple noxious stimuli, with both minority groups exhibiting greater sensitivity to laboratory evoked pain compared to non-Hispanic White Americans.

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