Pain is a part of life. Every one gets hurt every once in a while, may it be physical or emotional. Just like when a relationship ends, many people might say that the girl would be devastated and the boy would be fine or not get affected by it as much as the girl, thus the title. It may be the result of the society, these gender roles and expectations, or some biological reason. Having this in mind, can we also say that men can handle or stand physical pain more than women?
In a study by Burns et al (2010), they cited many studies that confirm the idea that women do report greater pain intensity and show a lower pain tolerance, compared to men exposed to the same stimuli. In the study they focused on one mechanism that could be responsible for this sex difference: Suppression, which as defined by our friends Merriam and Webster, is the conscious intentional exclusion from consciousness of a thought or feeling. Adopting a previous study’s model, they believed attempts to suppress unwanted thoughts like those including pain may ironically increase the awareness or salience of the subject being suppressed. If women do use this strategy more, this may pertly explain the sex difference.
In the study they had their participants (N = 222; women: 55%) undergo a cold pressor, where half of the sample was randomly assigned to suppress pain-related thoughts and feelings about the task while the other half was not. The pressor temperature was maintained between 0 and 3°C. A visual analog scale (VAS) was used to assess pain intensity on the 13-point scales ranging from 0 = ‘‘None at all’’ to 13 = ‘‘Extreme.’’
Their results showed that: first, men in the No Suppression condition reported lower pain than women in the same condition; second, men in Suppression condition reported greater pain then men in No Suppression condition, but equivalent pain to women in No Suppression condition. Differences between men and women on pain in No Suppression condition were suggested to be partly due to women’s report of greater spontaneous use of suppression during the cold pressor. In conclusion, women may be experiencing more pain due to their coping strategy specifically suppression.
We know that women experience pains that men would never experience like having to go through giving birth and their monthly period. With the findings from previous studies, would a man feel less pain or tolerate the pain better than women, if by some bizarre incident that a man gives birth? I’ not saying hat they are not painful, but doesn’t it just make you wonder?
John W. Burns; Erin Elfant; Phillip J., Q. (2010). Suppression of pain-related thoughts and feelings during pain-induction: sex differences in delayed pain responses. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 33(3), 200-208.