Racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare persist in the U.S. Although pain is one of the most prevalent and disabling symptoms of disease, only a few studies have assessed disparities in pain in large racially and ethnically diverse, middle- to late aged community samples, thus limiting the generalizability of study findings in broader populations. With data from the 2000 Health and Retirement Study, we assessed the prevalence and impact of pain in a community sample of aging (≥51 years old) non-Hispanic whites (n = 11,021), non-Hispanic blacks (n = 1,804), and Hispanics (n = 952) in the U.S. Pain, pain severity, activity limitation as a result of pain, comorbid conditions, and sociodemographic variables were assessed. Results showed that pain prevalence was 28%, and 17% of the sample reported activity limitation as a result of pain. Non-Hispanic blacks (odds ratio [OR], 1.78; 99% confidence interval [CI], 1.33-2.37) and Hispanics (OR, 1.80; 99% CI, 1.26-2.56) had higher risk for severe pain compared with non-Hispanic whites. Analyses of respondents with pain (n = 3,811) showed that having chronic diseases (2 comorbid conditions, OR, 1.5; 99% CI, 1.09-2.17), psychological distress (OR, 1.99; 99% CI, 1.54-2.43), being a Medicaid recipient (OR, 1.63; 99% CI, 1.17-2.25), and lower educational level (OR, 1.45; 99% CI, 1.14-1.85) were significant predictors for severe pain and helped to explain racial/ethnic differences in pain severity.
This study, which used a large racially and ethnically diverse community sample, provided empirical evidence that racial/ethnic difference in pain severity in aging community adults in the U.S. can be accounted for by differential vulnerability in terms of chronic disease, socioeconomic conditions, and access to care.