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Study Highlights Protective Role of Family Support Against Pain in Aging African Americans

A study published on May 20 in the Journals of Gerontology Series B reveals that family support may significantly reduce the incidence and persistence of pain among aging African Americans. Conducted by Dr. Sara B. Woods and her team at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, the research examines how family dynamics influence pain outcomes in this demographic.

The study analyzed data from two major sources: 755 African American participants from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study and 2,585 participants from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). The goal was to understand whether family relationships could either mitigate or exacerbate pain outcomes in older African Americans.

The research found that family support and average support were linked to a lower likelihood of pain onset in the MIDUS study, but this association held true only when the analysis did not account for family strain. In the HRS study, parent-child strain and overall family strain were identified as significant risk factors for new pain development. Additionally, family support showed a protective effect against the persistence of pain in MIDUS participants. Similarly, average support in the HRS study was associated with reduced odds of pain continuing over time.

The authors note that chronic pain outcomes are generally worse for African Americans due to various factors, including the potential impact of strained family relationships. They state that parent-child strain may contribute to the risk of new pain developing over time for older adults, while robust family support appears to offer significant protective benefits. This suggests that family dynamics could be a valuable focus for pain management interventions.

The study underscores the importance of addressing family relationships in efforts to manage and reduce chronic pain among aging African Americans. The findings suggest that enhancing family support could be a crucial strategy in improving pain outcomes and overall quality of life in this population.

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