Social Status Influences Pain Recovery

JANUARY 01, 2005

Research from a New South Wales multidisciplinary pain clinic found that socioeconomic status is a bigger influence on patients'recovery from chronic pain, compared with the nature of the health care they receive. Lynette Guy, a physiotherapist and PhD student in Griffith's School of Public Health, said that communication with health professionals was also important in shaping how patients adjusted to an injury.

After in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with 40 staff and 40 patients from the pain clinic, Guy found patients with ongoing pain from a musculoskeletal injury fell into 1 of 3 groups. The research revealed that those participants who do better after a work-related injury or car accident tended to be in higher socioeconomic brackets. She also noted that they were better able to self-manage their situation because "they are empowered by having greater choice over finding other treatment and rehabilitation options, and are more able to find other jobs and regain an income."

The second group of patients became disheartened and disempowered by the health care system when therapies failed to help their pain. This group did not have the resources to seek other help or support. The third group of patients felt seeking justice through compensation and litigation was their main objective. Oftentimes, they believed that treating practitioners, solicitors, and insurers did not believe their story or symptoms. Guy concluded that better support structures for injured individuals from lower income groups were needed. Greater awareness of how interactions with treating practitioners can play a role in patient outcomes is also recommended.