Ouch: Pain Affects Women More Than Men, Say Scientists

16/03/2011 11:13 | Updated 22 May 2015

woman-lower-back-painWomen experience pain more intensely than men, say experts. Photo: Getty

Men may think they feel more pain than women, but according to scientists it's the opposite way around. Yes, we feel pain more intensely than men, claim the experts. And they have the brain scans to prove it.

Presenting their findings at the annual meeting of the British Society of Gastroenterology, the researchers don't go as far as saying women are tougher than men where dealing with pain is concerned. What they do say, however, is that women process pain differently to men, since the part of our brains that's involved in pain avoidance reacts more strongly.

The research team - which included experts from London and Japan - studied 16 men and 16 women who were subjected to tests involving having a balloon inserted through their nose and into their gullets. Their brains were scanned just before the test began as well as while the balloon was slowly inflated, causing pain levels to increase.

In the run-up to the painful procedure, the women's brains were less active in the parts that process fear than the men's brains, which suggests the anticipation of pain causes more fear in men than in women.

The women's brains, however, were more active in parts that are linked to preparing for pain, suggesting women tend to concentrate on how to cope with pain rather than being afraid of it.

And during the tests, the women's brains showed more activity in the part of the brain involved with emotions, while the men's brains were more involved in trying to avoid the pain.

Does this sound familiar to you? And are women really the stronger sex (or are men)?

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