Gender role in pain perception and expression: an integrative review

Michele Gomes Nascimento Maurício Kosminsky Michele Chi About the authors

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

Gender seems to play a role in influencing the response to experimental pain, although this influence is not very clear yet. Therefore, the objective of the present review was to investigate the contribution of the gender construct (gender identity/role) in the experience of pain through the selection and analysis of clinical studies on the subject.

CONTENTS:

A search was carried out in the databases Medline (via Pubmed), LILACS (via BVS), and PsycINFO. The search used the following descriptors: gender identity, pain, gender role combined by the Boolean operator AND/OR (gender identity) AND pain AND gender role AND pain, in English, Portuguese and Spanish. At the end of the selection, 11 studies were included for this review. All the investigations recovered on the subject are clinical laboratory studies. Regarding the influence of the gender identity and its role in pain perception, most of the studies (91%) show that this variable was a contributing factor to the differences observed in perception (tolerance/pain threshold) and the need to communicate the pain.

CONCLUSION:

In experimental pain, a higher degree of femininity or female social roles are associated with lower thresholds and less tolerance to pain, as well as a greater natural tendency to communicate pain sensation. These results are independent of the type of stimulus, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

Keywords:
Gender and health; Gender identity; Pain

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