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The influence of Latinx American identity on pain perception and treatment seeking

Authors Ng BW, Nanavaty N, Mathur VA

Received 31 May 2019

Accepted for publication 30 August 2019

Published 8 November 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 3025—3035


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Katherine Hanlon

Brandon W Ng,1 Namrata Nanavaty,1 Vani A Mathur1,2

1Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA; 2Texas A&M Institute for Neuroscience, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA

Correspondence: Vani A Mathur
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Texas A&M University, 4235 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4235, USA, 
Tel +1 979 845 2383
Fax +1 979 845 4727

Introduction: Latinx-Americans are underserved across healthcare contexts, and racial disparities in pain management are pervasive. One potential contributor is racial bias in pain perception – including low-level implicit biases and explicitly held lay-beliefs. Delays in seeking pain treatment may compound these disparities. However, experiments testing these factors in the context of Latinx-American pain are limited, and mechanisms by which Latinx-American group-membership influences pain perception and treatment are not understood.
Methods: Here, Latinx-American and White-American participants read vignettes including a Latinx or White patient’s pain description and numerical pain rating. Participants then rated how much pain they thought each patient was in using the same numerical scale. Participants also reported how much pain they themselves would need to experience to prompt treatment-seeking.
Results: In contrast to prior work identifying lay beliefs that Latinx-Americans feel less pain than White-Americans, participants in the current study revealed a bias in the opposite direction. This was largely driven, however, by Latinx-American participants, who have been under-represented in previous studies of empathy and pain perception. Latinx-Americans ascribed more pain to patients overall – irrespective of patient race – relative to White-Americans. Latinx-American participants also reported that their own pain would need to be significantly more intense before seeing a doctor.
Conclusion: These results suggest that, relative to White-Americans, Latinx-Americans may be more likely to believe people are in more pain than they report – or may be more perceptive of others’ pain – and that they may be in more pain upon presenting to medical settings.

Keywords: disparities, race, ethnicity, empathy

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