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Ethnic differences in physical pain sensitivity: Role of acculturation

Chan, Michelle Y.P.a,*; Hamamura, Takeshia; Janschewitz, Kristinb

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doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2012.09.015

Summary Differences in acute pain sensitivity were obtained as a function of acculturation.

Although research suggests that Asian Americans are more reactive to physical pain than European Americans, some evidence suggests that the observed differences in ethnicity may actually reflect Asian Americans’ differing levels of acculturation. Two studies were conducted to test this hypothesis. In Study 1, first- and second-generation Asian Americans and European Americans took part in a cold pressor task. Evidence of heightened pain responses was found only among first-generation Asian Americans. Study 2 further controlled for ethnicity and replicated this pattern in finding heightened pain reactions among mainland Chinese students in Hong Kong relative to Hong Kong Chinese students. These findings suggest a role for acculturation in accounting for ethnic differences in physical pain sensitivity.

Sponsorships or competing interests that may be relevant to content are disclosed at the end of this article.

aDepartment of Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong

bDepartment of Psychology, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY, USA

*Corresponding author.


Article history: Received 29 May 2012; Received in revised form 15 August 2012; Accepted 29 September 2012.

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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