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J Natl Med Assoc. 2007 October; 99(10): 1160–1169.
PMCID: PMC2574394

The association among neighborhood socioeconomic status, race and chronic pain in black and white older adults.


The association among race, neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES), and chronic pain has not been well examined in older people. Clinical data was obtained from older adults (>50 years old) presenting to a tertiary care pain center. The relative roles of race and neighborhood SES on the chronic pain experienced in older black and white adults were assessed. Older blacks experienced more affective pain, pain-related disability and mood disorder symptoms than older whites. Confirmatory factor analysis confirmed previously hypothesized factors for the McGill Pain Questionnaire pain dimensions and the Pain Disability Index. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses also identified factors in the Brief Symptom Inventory and neighborhood SES. Structural equation modeling showed black race was associated with lower neighborhood SES and also with increased affective pain, obligatory disability and mood disorders mediationally through neighborhood SES. It was indirectly associated with increased sensory and miscellaneous pain, and voluntary disability through low neighborhood SES. Racial interaction examination showed that neighborhood SES had the same relationship to outcomes by race. We found increasing neighborhood SES is associated with decreasing negative chronic pain outcomes for older blacks and whites. Our data provide evidence that both race and neighborhood SES are important factors to consider when examining the chronic pain experience among older Americans.

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