Women feel more pain than men: study

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The argument that women handle pain better than men has been debated many times in the long-running battle of the sexes.

Now scientists have come down on the side of women in one regard - after concluding that they endure more pain than their male counterparts.

Researchers have discovered that across a range of conditions from arthritis to digestive problems, female patients typically experience greater discomfort than men.

They looked at the records of 11,000 patients and found that overall, women rated their pain higher on an 11-point scale of how bad they were feeling.

As part of their routine medical care, the patients had been asked to rate how they felt on a scale of one to 10, with zero being "no pain" and 10 being "worst pain imaginable".

Women reported more intense pain than men in 14 of 47 disease categories. Men did not report more intense pain in any category, and in the rest they were even.

The differences between the sexes were notable in circulation, arthritis, respiratory and digestive problems. There was also a difference in issues with bones and muscles, plus severe nasal problems, neck and joint pain and high blood pressure.

The typical difference between men and women was just one point on the pain scale, but that could be the difference between a drug working and not working.

Lead author, Atul Butte, from the Stanford University School of Medicine, said that the disparity was "the most surprising finding".

"We completely wouldn't have expected such a difference where women were reporting a whole pain point higher on the 0-to-10 scale than men," Dr Butte said.

Previous studies have suggested the difference between the sexes may be due to oestrogen in women dampening pain receptors which helps them endure more pain when they are not menstruating.

A research paper from the University of Western Ontario in Canada has also suggested that there could be a difference in how the sexes transmit pain messages.

But some experts said that men feel pressure not to show their emotions and keep themselves in check so might be less willing to admit they are suffering.

Carol Warfield, from the department of anesthesia, critical care and pain medicine at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, said: "There have been a number of reports indicating that in our society stoicism is often considered virtuous, especially in men."

"Therefore, men may be less likely to report high levels of pain even if they perceive them ... men and women may experience the same levels of pain but women are more likely to actually admit that they have pain."

- DAILY MAIL

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