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J Pain. 2011 May;12(5):563-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2010.11.003. Epub 2011 Feb 1.

Race and sex differences in primary appraisals, catastrophizing, and experimental pain outcomes.

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Department of Psychology, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.


The aims of this study were: 1) to examine race and sex differences in primary pain appraisals and catastrophizing; 2) to test the unique ability of race, sex, primary pain appraisals, and catastrophizing to predict experimental pain outcomes; and 3) to conduct mediational analyses testing pain appraisals and catastrophizing as explanatory mechanisms for race and sex differences in pain. One hundred and fifty-five college students at The University of Alabama completed a cold pressor experimental pain task and a questionnaire battery. Statistical methods included multivariable regression models and nonparametric bootstrapping methods for tests of mediation. African-Americans reported higher catastrophizing and had lower pain tolerance than white Americans. Males demonstrated higher challenge appraisals, lower pain intensity, and longer pain tolerance. Challenge appraisals were positively related to pain tolerance, threat/harm appraisals were inversely related to pain tolerance, and pain catastrophizing was positively related to both pain intensity and pain unpleasantness. Pain catastrophizing partially mediated race differences in pain tolerance and mediated sex differences in intensity, whereas primary pain appraisals did not significantly mediate race or sex differences in pain variables. Primary appraisals and catastrophizing appear to be separable constructs related to different aspects of the pain experience.


This study found that important race and sex differences exist in relation to pain appraisals and catastrophizing, and that these cognitive variables play unique roles in different aspects of the pain experience. Cognitive-behavioral therapies for pain may be enhanced by including a focus on both pain appraisals and pain catastrophizing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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