women-feel-more-pain-than-men.jpgThe long-running debate over who feels pain more intensely - men or women - rumbles on, and the results of a study published this week has on this occasion cast women as the bigger wusses. According to the research, women appear to suffer more pain from a variety of conditions, or at the very least we rate the symptoms as being more painful than male sufferers do.

The results are likely to cause incredulity among some, who have long believed women are better at dealing with pain because - well - we tend to be expected to put up with it more often than men are. Periods and childbirth certainly do provide us with ample opportunities to experience the joys of pain and suffering to a positively medieval extent, but does that mean we're "better" at it? There is no evidence to suggest that this makes us in any way stronger or better equipped to cope. If anything, all it does is make us feel like failures when we don't.

I've not yet given birth myself, but frankly I've seen One Born Every Minute, and women engaged in the act do not look like they're having a very good time. In fact, I can't think of a better example of why our supposedly higher threshold for pain is a myth: the fact that we've suffered vastly more than our fair share of physical pain over millennia should in no way be confused with a capacity to deal with it. You might as well argue that men are better at taking bullets because they've traditionally fought in wars but nobody does that.

So what of this new research? I'm no statistician, but my own reading of this study is that men and women probably feel pain to a more or less identical degree but that men are less likely to admit to it due to social conditioning. The emphasis is on reporting, so it should come as no surprise that women - who are known to be quicker to seek medical assistance than men - will report pain as a symptom more often. Maybe we're just happier talking about it in some situations?

Either way, wouldn't it be awesome if men and women could stop competing over which sex is 'stronger' or 'suffering more' than the other and just admit that we're all human and have weaknesses?

[Image: 416 Style on Flickr]