Pain as a social phenomenon: state-of-the art and new research trends


  • L. Goubert
  • E. Keogh
  • S. Bernardes
  • L. Caes
  • C. Van Gampelaere


Aims: Upon completion of this session, attendees will have a better understanding of the social dimensions of pain. More specifically, attendees will: (1) be updated on the role of informal pain-related social support (SS), (2) learn when SS may yield most beneficial effects, (3) have insight into sex-related differences in pain communication, (4) be introduced into the role of parental goals regarding their child in pain, and (5) have an insight into different methodologies to examine the social dimensions of pain (scoping review, daily diary and experimental methodologies). Rationale: This symposium perfectly fits within the topic of this year’s EHPS conference “Innovative Ideas in Health Psychology†by providing an overview of innovative research on the social dimensions of pain. Innovative research in this area is crucial given the recently updated definition of pain, emphasizing the important role of its social dimensions. Summary: Since the original definition of pain fails to acknowledge its social dimensions, an updated definition has recently been proposed (2016), i.e. “Pain is a distressing experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage with sensory, emotional, cognitive, and social componentsâ€. This symposium will describe innovative research on social dimensions of pain. First, Ed Keogh will discuss how pain is communicated and describe an experimental paradigm to investigate sex differences in pain expression recognition. Second, Sónia Bernardes will present a scoping review of studies on informal pain-related social support. Third, Liesbet Goubert will present findings of a diary study examining motivation to help in partners of individuals with chronic pain. Fourth, Line Caes will discuss the relative role and underlying mechanisms of parental versus partner SS in explaining menstrual pain-related disability. Finally, Cynthia Van Gampelaere will highlight the role of parental psychological flexibility and catastrophizing in the daily goals parents hold regarding their child in pain.