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Women may feel more pain than men, new study reveals

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Liz Draper
WVoN co-editor 

Women feel pain more acutely than men, according to a new study by Stanford University in California.

Researchers analysed the perceived pain of 11,000 people suffering from a variety of health problems. Patients were asked to rate their pain on a scale from zero to eleven.

In 39 of the 47 disorders covered by the study, women were more likely to report feeling more pain.

Dr Atul Butte, senior author of the study, which was published in the Journal of Pain, called the gender disparity “the most surprising finding” of the research.

Studies of pain are often restricted by the difficulty of accurately measuring pain levels, given that the perception of pain is subjective, and tolerance varies between individuals. However, the fact that the results emerged from such a large number of patients suggests that the gender difference is real.

Several possible explanations, both biological and cultural, have been put forward. Previous studies have suggested that women’s perception of pain is affected by oestrogen levels, and varies throughout the menstrual cycle.

The study’s authors suggested that cultural factors may also be at play: male patients may have been influenced by cultural stereotypes of toughness to understate the pain they felt, particularly when self-reporting to female nurses.

  1. Pavlov's Cat says:

    “Studies of pain are often restricted by the difficulty of accurately measuring pain levels”

    Sorry, this is paywalled but I can’t find any information in the abstract suggesting that the authors of the study did anything whatsoever to address this difficulty other than ask more people. I know they only concluded that it suggested a real gender difference, but it’s a big leap from that to the headline it generated.

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