Studies Show Men Have A Higher Pain Tolerance Than Women
For every man who has claimed to have a higher pain tolerance than women, there is a woman quick to set him straight, citing childbirth as proof women are the tougher of the genders. Scientists now claim to have ended the debate once and for all. According to research from Leeds Metropolitan University in the U.K., as well as a separate study from Stanford University, men tend to tolerate more pain than women, and are less likely to report pain symptoms than their female counterparts.
Pain scientist Osama Tashani recruited 200 British and Libyan volunteers for his study, which was recently published in the European Journal of Pain. Subjects were tested with two pain-inducing procedures—having their hands jabbed with a 1-centimeter-wide blunt tip and holding their hands above their heads with a cuff applied to reduce blood flow.
Tashani monitored subjects’ endurance, sensitivity and willingness to report pain. He found men of both nationalities had higher pain thresholds and reported less pain intensity than women. He also found the Libyan volunteers endured more pain than the British participants, but the gender differences were more pronounced among Libyan participants.
“Traditionally, high levels of stoicism are associated with men and high levels of sensitivity are associated with women,” Tashani said. “Some ethnic groups are described as more stoic, while others are viewed as more free in expressing their pain behavior.”
Tashani’s results mirror those of a Stanford University study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Pain. Researcher Linda Liu concluded women’s pain may be more intense than men’s across a number of different diseases, including arthritis, respiratory infections and diabetes.
The Stanford study included pain scores from more than 11,000 patients whose information was recorded into Stanford Hospital and Clinics electronic medical records between 2007 and 2010. Researchers assessed gender differences in pain reported for more than 250 medical conditions. They found in nearly every diagnosis women reported higher average pain scores than men. In fact, women’s scores averaged 20 percent higher than men’s scores.
Liu pointed out, however, that pain scores are subjective and can be affected by factors such as mood and pain medication.
“Whatever the reason, I think it’s important to be aware of this pain discrepancy between men and women and look into it further,” Liu said.
[Image via Herbert Kratky/Shutterstock]
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