Sex differences in pain anchors revisited: Further investigation of "most intense" and common pain events

Michael E. Robinson, Steven Z. George*, Erin A. Dannecker, Rebecca L. Jump, Adam T. Hirsh, Christine M. Gagnon, Jennifer L. Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent research suggests that the interpretation of maximal endpoints of pain scales vary between sexes. The purposes of this study were to investigate sex differences in (a) maximal endpoints of pain scales and (b) bias, discrimination, and the "better than average effect" for ratings of common pain events. Study participants described and rated the intensity of events that were the "most intense pain imaginable" for the typical woman, typical man, and one's self. Study participants also described and rated the intensity of the "most painful" events they had experienced. Study participants completed the situational pain questionnaire (SPQ), which measured the amount of pain that the typical woman, typical man, or one's self would be expected to experience during thirty common painful events. One hundred and fifteen undergraduate psychology students completed this study. Men and women differed in the categories of events selected for most intense pain imaginable for one's self. There were no significant sex differences for the intensity of most intense self-imagined pain or most painful event experienced. However, women were more likely to report the intensity of their worst self-imagined pain event as 100/100. In addition, only women demonstrated a significant correlation between the intensity of most painful self-experienced event and intensity of most intense self-imagined event. Analyses of the SPQ discrimination scores revealed no sex or version differences. Analyses of the SPQ bias scores showed that both sexes indicated that the typical woman would rate the intensity of common pain events higher than would the typical man. Women rated the intensity of common pain events for themselves lower than for the typical woman, but higher than the typical man, and men rated also rated themselves as lower than the typical women, but the same as the typical man. Thus, there was inconsistent support for the "better than average effect". Future research is needed to determine the clinical relevance of sex differences in pain anchors and gender-related stereotypes for evaluating other people's pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-305
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Volume8
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2004

Keywords

  • Bias
  • Discrimination
  • Pain anchor
  • Pain intensity
  • Sex difference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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