Studies conducted in the United States have found that patients’ sex, race and age influence the pain assessment and treatment decisions of laypeople, healthcare trainees, and healthcare professionals. There have been few studies that have examined whether a person’s nationality affects their use of demographic cues in making pain decisions. This study compares the pain assessment and treatment decisions of undergraduate students in the United States and Jordan. Virtual human (VH) technology was used to examine the pain assessment and treatment decisions of American and Jordanian participants. Seventy-five American and 104 Jordanian undergraduate students viewed 16 VH-patient profiles varying in sex, race and age. Participants read clinical vignettes describing the patients’ low back pain condition. For each patient, participants made pain assessment and treatment decisions regarding pain intensity, negative mood, and recommendations for medical help. The results indicated that both American and Jordanian participants assessed VH-patients who were female and old to be experiencing higher pain intensity and greater negative mood than male and young VHs, respectively. Similarly, participants were more likely to recommend medical help for female and old VHs. Jordanian participants rated pain intensity, negative mood, and likelihood of recommending medical help higher for all patient demographic groups than did the American participants. The age differences (young<old) were more pronounced for American than for Jordanian participants across ratings of pain intensity, negative mood, and recommending medical help. This is the first cross-national and cross-cultural study that compares pain decisions among undergraduate students. The results of the study suggest that sex, race and age cues are used in pain assessment and treatment in both American and Jordanian nationalities. However, several differences emerged between the samples suggestive of culture influences on sex, race and age expectations about pain. Additional research is needed to determine the cultural determinants of these differences.
© 2013 Published by Elsevier Inc.