Continuing Education
  • Goldie D. Brangman Diversity & Inclusion Lecture: Taking a Closer Look at Sex, Race, and Social Class Disparities in Pain

    Pain is a subjective experience that affects all segments of the population. However, there are inter-individual differences in pain. The biopsychosocial model proposes that the intersection of biological, psychological, and social factor create a pain experience and pain outcomes that differ by sex, race, and socioeconomic status. Many studies have reported that women report a higher prevalence of chronic pain (e.g., fibromyalgia, and migraine), and a lower threshold of experimentally induced pain, relative to men. Regarding treatment, women are prescribed and consume more analgesic medications than men.

    Similarly, compared with non-Hispanic Whites, Non-Hispanic Blacks report a higher prevalence and severity in both clinical (e.g., chronic back pain, and osteoarthritis) and experimentally induced pain. Regarding treatment, clinicians are more likely to underestimate the pain and to prescribe an inadequate amount of analgesic medications for Blacks experiencing the same amount of pain as White patients. These racial differences in pain may be rooted in historical and sociocultural stereotypes and biases, which suggest that Blacks experience less pain than Whites.

    Recent studies have reported that many lay white people, medical students, and residents still have these false beliefs. Studies show that a patient’s race influences some providers’ decision to treat pain and choice of opioids. Racial disparities in pain cannot be fully appreciated without considerations of socioeconomic status. Work from our lab found that for Whites, higher subjective socioeconomic status was associated with lower pain outcomes. However, for Blacks, higher subjective socioeconomic status was associated with higher pain interference and pain severity. (1 Class A CE)