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Psychol Health. 2013;28(7):746-64. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2012.759222. Epub 2013 Jan 24.

Does sex moderate the relationship between anxiety and pain?

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  • 1Centre for Pain Research, The University of Bath, Bath, UK.



Sex differences exist in the relationship between anxiety and pain, although findings are mixed. One reason could be because a number of anxiety measures have been used. Therefore, this study aimed to identify the core components within commonly used pain anxiety measures, and see whether these components are differentially related to sensation and pain thresholds in men and women. DESIGN, MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: One hundred and eighty-nine healthy adults (119 female) completed the Fear of Pain Questionnaire, Pain Catastrophising Scale, Pain Anxiety Symptoms Scale, Anxiety Sensitivity Index-3 and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale. Thermal sensation and pain thresholds, mechanical sensation and pressure pain thresholds were also collected.


A Principal Components Analysis of anxiety measures revealed three constructs: general distress, cognitive intrusion and fear of pain from injury/insult. Sex did not moderate the relationship between these anxiety constructs and sensation/pain thresholds. However, a significant main effect of sex was found to predict thermal pain thresholds.


Preliminary indications suggest that pain anxiety dimensions can be reduced to three core constructs, and used to examine pain sensation. However, sex did not moderate this relationship. Further research is required to establish the extent and strength of sex differences in the relationship between anxiety and pain.

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