Pain affects millions of American adults. However, individuals from socioeconomically disadvantaged groups experience higher rates of pain, and individuals from racial/ethnic minorities report greater pain severity and pain-related disability. Some studies find an association between neighborhood socioeconomic status and pain. The present study aimed to further understand the association between neighborhood disadvantage and pain, including the role of objective (e.g., crime rates) and subjective neighborhood characteristics (e.g., perceived safety, neighborhood satisfaction), and to examine sleep and psychological distress as potential mediators of these associations.


The sample included 820 participants from two predominantly African American socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Trained data collectors interviewed participants on a number of self-report measures, and objective neighborhood characteristics were obtained from city crime data and street segment audits.


Subjective characteristics, specifically perceived infrastructure and perceived safety, were associated with pain. Based on bootstrapped regression models, sleep efficiency and psychological distress were tested as mediators of the association between these neighborhood factors and pain. Results of mediation testing indicated that psychological distress served as a significant mediator. Though sleep efficiency was not a mediator, it had a significant independent association with pain.


Understanding the contribution of sleep problems and psychological distress to pain among at-risk individuals living in disadvantaged neighborhoods is important to identifying ways that individual- and neighborhood-level interventions may be leveraged to reduce pain-related disparities.

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