Scientists investigating gender differences in pain have found that not only do women report more pain throughout the course of their lifetime, they also experience it in more bodily areas, more often and for longer duration when compared to men.
There also seem to be differences in how men and women think and feel about their pain. For example, anxiety may affect men and women in different ways, and the strategies used to cope with pain may actually make their experience worse.
These conclusions are based on several studies into the pain response of volunteers exposed to a pain stimulus, such as a cold water bath, as well as field studies in clinics and hospitals.
"Until fairly recently it was controversial to suggest that there were any differences between males and females in the perception and experience of pain, but that is no longer the case," said Dr Ed Keogh a psychologist from the Pain Management Unit at the University of Bath*.
"Research is telling us that women experience a greater number of pain episodes across their lifespan than men, in more bodily areas and with greater frequency.
"Unfortunately all too often the differences between males and females are not considered in pain research or practice, and instead are either ignored or statistically averaged."
There remains much discussion in the scientific community about why these gender differences in pain exist.
"While most explanations concentrate on biological mechanisms, such as genetic and hormonal differences, it is becoming increasingly clear that social and psychological factors are also important," said Dr Keogh.
One example of this is the different strategies men and women use to cope with pain. Whilst women tend to focus on the emotional aspects of pain they experience, men tend to focus on the sensory aspects, for e
Source:University of Bath