Research Article| Volume 21, ISSUE 1-2, P170-181, January 2020

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Sociodemographic and Environmental Factors are Associated with Adolescents’ Pain and Longitudinal Health Outcomes


      • Youth with chronic pain have lower family income and more barriers to health care.
      • They have also experienced more violence and more safety concerns.
      • More health care barriers increase risk for pain and may exacerbate disparities.
      • Safety concerns among youth with chronic pain lead to worse mental health.
      • Research is needed on the pain experiences of youth from diverse backgrounds.


      Research in adult populations indicates that several sociodemographic and environmental variables increase risk for pain and poor outcomes. There is little research exploring the impact of household income, health insurance coverage, barriers to health care, neighborhood and school safety, violence experienced, and neighborhood isolation on pediatric chronic pain. Data from the Add Health Study, a longitudinal examination of a nationally-representative adolescent sample were analyzed. The relationships between demographic variables, risk factors, chronic pain, and long-term health outcomes were examined. Adolescents with chronic pain had lower income, more health care barriers, greater safety concerns, and experienced more violence compared to those without pain. In a model together, female sex, White race/ethnicity, and greater health care barriers, safety concerns, and violence exposure conferred significant risk for chronic pain. Additional analyses revealed nuances in the strength of risk factors between racial/ethnic groups. Systemic health care barriers were significantly associated with chronic pain and may delay symptom alleviation and return to functioning. Considering access to care is necessary in prevention efforts. Among adolescents with chronic pain, greater safety concerns predicted poor mental health outcomes, particularly for White females. The cumulative stress of environmental concerns, such as safety, and managing chronic pain may worsen functioning.


      Adolescents with chronic pain had lower income, and more health care barriers, safety concerns, and violence exposure compared to those without chronic pain. Access to care is a significant problem in youth with chronic pain. The relationships between race/ethnicity, risk factors, and health outcomes are complex and require additional research.

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