Purpose in Life, Pain Sensitivity, and the Psychosocial functioning of Chronic Pain Patients

Jung hyun posing in front of her poster.




Postdoctoral Fellow, Communication Neuroscience Lab

Project Summary


Purpose in Life has been identified by numerous studies as a predictor for physical, mental, and social well-being. However, not much research has been done to examine the effects of purpose in life on chronic pain patients. Furthermore, the underlying mechanism as to how purpose promotes well-being is largely unknown. Therefore, the purpose of the current study is to: 1) understand the relationship between purpose in life and the psychosocial functioning of chronic pain patients; and  2) understand the significance of pain sensitivity as a mediator between purpose and psychosocial functioning of patients. Using Amazon Mechanical Turk, the current study was conducted on a sample of 146 chronic pain patients. A prescreen was done to identify eligible participants (chronic pain patients above age 18). The study used a self-rated survey to gather data on three main variables (purpose in life, pain sensitivity, psychosocial functioning) and used statistical software R to analyze data. Data suggested three main results. First, purpose was positively related to the psychosocial functioning of chronic pain patients. Second, purpose was negatively related to pain sensitivity. Third, pain sensitivity partially mediated the relationship between purpose and social functioning but did not mediate that between purpose and psychological functioning. From the results, it can be implied that purpose in life can possibly help individuals control the emotional and cognitive aspect that determines the pain experience. Furthermore, purpose in life can be a useful tool to be implemented for treatment of the majority of chronic pain patients who suffer from social isolation.

Through this study, I was able to learn more about the theoretical bases of pain and chronic pain. I believe pain is a fascinating field of study as there are so much individual difference as to how we perceive and interpret pain. Thanks to my advisors, I was also able to learn about Amazon Mechanical Turk, which is a useful platform to gather participants from a huge pool of sample, much more representative than a convenient sample usually accessible to college students. Furthermore, I was able to learn how to use program R, though difficult at first, I found very useful in conducting various statistical analyses. Overall, due to the generosity of CURF, I was able to perform primary research for the first time, which I am very proud and grateful for.