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Psychosoc Med. 2012;9:Doc01. doi: 10.3205/psm000079. Epub 2012 Feb 28.

The effects of sex and gender role on responses to pressure pain.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, University of Göttingen, Germany.



Several studies on experimental mechanical pain suggested a strong influence of sex demonstrating females to be more sensitive. We examined the hypothesis that not only sex but also gender role affects pain responsiveness and looked for mediators of this effect.


As indicators of pain the threshold the intensity and the unpleasantness of pressure stimuli were measured, as well as sensory and affective quality of pain. The gender role of 74 students was assessed by the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI). Furthermore several psychological variables assumed to be potential mediators (catastrophising, fear of pain, depressive symptoms, pain coping) were obtained.


ANOVA revealed significant main effects of sex in all pain variables except affective quality of pain. Contrary to our hypothesis gender role had no influence on pain responses, neither was there an interaction of sex and gender. Fear of pain just missed the significance level identifying it as mediator of the sex effect on affective pain.


In summary, our study corroborated previous findings that women are more responsive to mechanical pain stimuli with effect sizes being medium to large, whereas gender role did not predict any of the assessed pain parameters. No convincing evidence was found that the influence of sex is predominantly mediated by psychological characteristics of the individual.


fear of pain; gender role; pain responsiveness; sex

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