Do Women Feel Pain More Intensely Than Men? New Study Says Yes

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • According to a new study, published online Jan. 23 in the Journal of Pain, women report more intense pain than men in virtually every disease category. 

    Study Design and Results

    Using electronic medical records from a large hospital database, researchers analyzed the pain scores of more than 11,000 individual adult patients in 47 separate diagnostic categories.  Pain was evaluated based on the standard 0-to-10 pain scale in which zero stands for no pain and 10 means the worst pain imaginable. 

    “We saw higher pain scores for female patients practically across the board,” said Atul Butte, MD, PhD, the study’s senior author.  Overall, women's pain scores ran an average of about 20 percent higher than men's.  The biggest gender differences were found in the “musculoskeletal and connective tissue” category. 

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    My Thoughts...

    While the data gleaned from this study is interesting and certainly worth discussing, there were too many unknown variables in play for me to read a lot into the results.  For example, did any of the patients take some type of pain reliever at home, which could have altered the pain level they reported at the hospital?  Or, would a man report a different pain level to a female nurse than to a male nurse and vice versa?  Although this study can't answer those questions, there was a significant enough difference in the pain scores of men vs. women to make it worthwhile to conduct additional studies with more controls. 

    Your Thoughts?

    What do you think about the results of this study?  Do women actually feel more pain then men or are they just more likely to report it?  Do men tend to under-report their pain levels because they want to maintain a strong image?  Does the gender of the healthcare professional asking about pain levels make any difference?  I'd like to hear your thoughts.

    Ruau D, et al. Sex Differences in Reported Pain Across 11,000 Patients Captured in Electronic Medical Records. J Pain. 2012 Jan 12. [Epub ahead of print]
    Goldman, Bruce. Women report feeling pain more intensely than men, says study of electronic records. Stanford School of Medicine. January 23, 2012.

Published On: January 25, 2012