Chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP) is a significant health burden among adults. Standard behavioral therapies typically focus on targeting negative affect (NA) and yield only modest treatment effects. The aims of this study were to systematically review and investigate the association between positive affect (PA) and pain severity among adults with CNCP. Databases search included MEDLINE (PubMed), PsycINFO, CINAHL, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, OLASTER, Open Grey, and PsyArXiv (inception to July 23, 2019). We analyzed studies that: (1) employed observational, experimental, or intervention study designs; (2) enrolled individuals with CNCP (pain ≥ 12 weeks); and (3) reported full quantitative results on outcomes. Two researchers independently screened articles, extracted data, and assessed the risk of bias. The main meta-analysis was followed by subgroup analyses. All analyses were performed using random-effects models. Formal tests for heterogeneity (Q-statistic; I) and publication bias (p-curve and p-uniform*) were performed. We meta-analyzed 29 studies with 3521 participants. Results demonstrated that PA inversely impacts pain severity in people with CNCP (r = -0.23). Subgroup analyses showed a significant effect for gender and marginally significant effects for age in studies that adjusted for NA. On average, effect sizes for observational studies were larger in studies with a higher proportion of female respondents and in studies that did not adjust for NA. Finally, larger effect sizes were found in intervention studies with older compared with younger samples.
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