Objective: The present study examined ethnic differences in pain reports between Hispanics (n = 147) and Caucasians (n = 1308) with serious health problems. It was predicted that Hispanics would report more pain in relation to their health problems than would Caucasians, depression would be associated with increased pain reports in both groups, and depression’s influence on pain reports would be greater for Hispanics compared with Caucasians.
Methods: Data from Hispanic and Caucasian participants with a current health problem were utilized from the National Comorbidity Survey, a nationally representative epidemiological sample. Participants’ pain reports, relative to their health problems, were obtained. Hierarchal regression analyses were conducted to examine the relationship between ethnicity and reported pain and the potentially moderating role of depression.
Results: Findings indicated that Hispanics reported more pain compared with Caucasians and that depression was associated with higher pain reports in both groups. Depression moderated the relationship between ethnicity and pain such that ethnic differences in pain reports were even greater among depressed participants than among nondepressed participants. That is, pain reports for Hispanics were higher in the presence of depression than was found for the Caucasian participants.
Conclusions: Cultural differences in the acceptability and the expression of distress may be related to higher pain reports among Hispanics as compared with Caucasians, particularly in the presence of depression. The interplay of biological, psychological and sociocultural processes involved in both pain and depression were considered.
NCS = National Comorbidity Survey; HPA = hypothalamus-pituitary adrenal.