Latent variables may be useful in pain's assessment

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6 Scopus citations


Background: Unobserved " latent" variables have the potential to minimize " measurement error" inherent to any single clinical assessment or categorical diagnosis.Objectives: To demonstrate the potential utility of latent variable constructs in pain's assessment.Design: We created two latent variables representing depressive symptom-related pain (Pd) and its residual, " somatic" pain (Ps), from survey questions.Setting: The Hispanic Established Population for Epidemiological Studies in the Elderly (H-EPESE) project, a longitudinal population-based cohort study.Participants: Community dwelling elderly Mexican-Americans in five Southwestern U.S. states. The data were collected in the 7th HEPESE wave in 2010 (N = 1,078).Measurements: Self-reported pain, Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) scores, bedside cognitive performance measures, and informant-rated measures of basic and instrumental Activities of Daily Living.Results: The model showed excellent fit [χ2 = 20.37, DF = 12; p = 0.06; Comparative fit index (CFI) = 0.998; Root mean statistical error assessment (RMSEA) = 0.025]. Ps was most strongly indicated by self-reported pain-related physician visits (r = 0.48, p ≤0.001). Pd was most strongly indicated by self-reported pain-related sleep disturbances (r = 0.65, p <0.001). Both Pd and Ps were significantly independently associated with chronic pain (> one month), regional pain and pain summed across selected regions. Pd alone was significantly independently associated with self-rated health, life satisfaction, self-reported falls, Life-space, nursing home placement, the use of opiates, and a variety of sleep related disturbances. Ps was associated with the use of NSAIDS. Neither construct was associated with declaration of a resuscitation preference, mode of resuscitation preference declaration, or with opting for a " Do Not Resuscitate" (DNR) order.Conclusion: This analysis illustrates the potential of latent variables to parse observed data into " unbiased" constructs with unique predictive profiles. The latent constructs, by definition, are devoid of measurement error that affects any subset of their indicators. Future studies could use such phenotypes as outcome measures in clinical pain management trials or associate them with potential biomarkers using powerful parametric statistical methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13
JournalHealth and Quality of Life Outcomes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 30 2014


  • Aging
  • Assessment
  • Depression
  • Pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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