Science hasn’t taken a final side on the long-running debate of whether getting kicked in the balls is worse than childbirth — this time at least — but they have looked at exactly how men and women experience pain. Furthermore, they looked at how gender stereotypes influence how seriously this pain is taken.
The University of Miami, in an article entitled ‘Gender Biases in Estimation of Others’ Pain‘ aptly published in The Journal of Pain, found that when male and female patients expressed the same amount of pain, observers viewed females patients’ pain as “less intense”. In all fairness, it was both men and women who interpreted female pain to be less intense.
As for exactly how they found this? It was through two experiments. In the first, 50 people viewed a variety of videos where male and female patients — who had suffered from shoulder pain — performed a series of “range of motion” exercises, using both their injured and uninjured shoulders. The 50 study participants were asked to gauge the amount of pain they thought the people were in, from zero to 100 — the latter being the “worst pain possible”.
This was then compared to the patient’s self-analysis of their pain, as well as an analysis system called Facial Action Coding System, which could “provide an objective score of the intensity of the patients’ pain facial expressions.”
And in the second experiment? Well, the first part of the first experiment was replicated and 200 people participated. At the end of the experiment, they were asked to complete a questionnaire labelled ‘Gender Role Expectation of Pain’ — which, as the name suggests, measures gender-related stereotypes about pain sensitivity. It also measured the endurance of pain, and the willingness to report pain.
The 200 people were also asked how much medication and psychotherapy they’d prescribe, and which they believed would be more effective for each patient.
In addition to the whole “women seem to experience pain less even when they’re actually in the same amount of pain” thing, observers also believe women are more likely to benefit from psychotherapy as opposed to medication in comparison to men and their pain.
Gender bias is real for patients, and as the study concluded, could lead to disparities in treatments.