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Health perceptions in chronic pain for Latinos and Caucasians

24 July 2015


Latinos represent the largest and fastest growing minority group in the United States. Despite this growing portion of the U.S. population, there are limited studies that address cultural explanations of health for Latinos with chronic pain. According to the World Health Organization, health is defined as a state of complete physical, social, and mental wellbeing and does not merely include the presence or absence of disease. However, existing studies on health outcomes in Latinos generally are based on mainstream interpretations within a medical model that focus on physical signs and symptoms as indicators of overall health. This model lacks consideration of cultural factors that may influence health beliefs and behaviors among Latinos. For example, social and emotional variables including spiritual involvement, desired social role fulfillment, and obligations to family have been linked to positive perceived health status among Latinos. The current study used correlational and ANCOVA analyses to examine differences in perceived mental and physical wellbeing in Latinos and Caucasians with chronic pain. In addition, acculturation status, depression, and pain, on a level of wellbeing, were explored in order to examine the impact of these variables on health perceptions. As suggested by previous research, results indicated that Latinos perceived their health status more positively compared to their Caucasian counterparts; however, it should be noted that Caucasian participants also rated pain levels and depression higher than did Latinos. Greater depressive symptoms were endorsed by Caucasian participants and were associated with poorer ratings of physical wellbeing. In this regard, depression scores co-varied with self-ratings of physical wellbeing for Latinos but not for Caucasians. As for the influence of acculturation levels on health perceptions scores among Latinos, results indicated that those who identified more strongly with Western culture reported greater physical wellbeing compared to those who identified more strongly with the Hispanic culture. There was no significant relationship found between acculturation to either Hispanic culture or Western culture and mental health wellbeing. Overall, this study suggests that health providers conduct comprehensive health assessments with patients from diverse patient populations who have chronic pain. In particular, the disparities between participants’ health perceptions illustrate the importance of attending to non-physical indicators of health such as social and emotional wellbeing in the assessment of chronic pain among Latinos.


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