The relationship between Dispositional Optimism, Pain Experience and Pain anticipation

  • M.H.M. Klomp


Background: Dispositional optimism is an individual difference variable that reflects the extent to which people hold generalized favorable expectancies for their future. It has been suggested to be a protective factor for pain. This study investigates the relationship between dispositional optimism and pain experience, and what role pain anticipation plays in this relationship. A positive impact of dispositional optimism on pain experience is expected. Furthermore, it is expected that pain anticipation has a negative association with both dispositional optimism and pain experience, but also may be a mediator in the relationship between dispositional optimism and pain experience. Methods: The study has a cross-sectional design and was performed on 36 bachelor students of Maastricht University. The study population has an age ranged from 18 to 24 years old (mean= 20,75 years; SD= 1,84). Experimental pain was induced by means of the Medoc Pathway Advanced Thermal Stimulator (ATS; MEDOC). Pain experience was separated in pain threshold and pain tolerance measurements. Dispositional optimism was measured with the Life Orientation Test-Revised (LOT-R). Pain anticipation was separated in three items; expected pain, expected unpleasantness, and expected fear, which were measured on a visual analogue scale before the start of the pain stimulus. Results: For pain anticipation and pain experience only expected pain shows a significant correlation with pain experience’s measurement pain tolerance. There is no significant link between dispositional optimism and pain experience; therefore, pain anticipation is not tested as a mediator. In the correlation between pain anticipation and dispositional optimism, the link between expected pain and the total LOT-R score is significant. Furthermore, the links between expected pain, expected unpleasantness and expected fear and the negative subscale of the LOT-R score are significant. Conclusion: This study did not confirm the suggested relationship between dispositional optimism and pain experience, although it does confirm a significant correlation between pain anticipation and dispositional optimism.


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