Look at any groupwhether your basketball team or coworkersand you will find different levels of pain tolerance, even among the same gender. Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, however, found noticeable differences in how men and women reported pain during routine medical visits.
In the largest study of its kind, researchers examined electronic medical records for 11,000 patients at Stanford Hospitals and Clinics. Patients reported pain on a scale of 0-to-10 (from “no pain” to “worst pain imaginable”). In cases where patients could not report their own pain levels, trained observers used the same method.
Researchers found that women reported higher levels of pain for almost all of the diseases and conditions looked at, including back conditions, infectious diseases and cancer. On average, women rated pain one point higher than men. This may not seem like much, but according to researchers, it can be enough to indicate whether a pain medication is working.
The differences found between men and women may result from a variety of causes, such as hormones, psychological factors, genetics, or even the simple fact that men feel more cultural pressure to report less pain. “The reasons may be biological or they may not be, but we should still be aware of the bias that patients have in reporting pain,” Dr. Atul Butte, a senior author of the study, told Time. He indicated that further research is needed in order to better assess and treat patients’ pain.