MEN can tolerate more pain than women and are less likely to react to it because they want to appear macho, according to new research by a Leeds Metropolitan university academic.
The study found gender stereotypes mean men tend to act stoically when hurt whereas women show more sensitivity.
The research, the first of its kind, was carried out by pain expert Dr Osama Tashani, who recruited 200 British and Libyan volunteers to inflict pain on.
Those who took part in the study were jabbed in the hand with a 1cm-wide blunt tip and had their blood supply to a raised hand restricted.
Scientists monitored sensitivity and endurance along with willingness to report pain during the tests.
Dr Tashani said men had higher pain thresholds and reported less pain intensity than women irrespective of nationality.
British volunteers could not endure as much pain as Libyan participants but were more willing to report it.
Reactions based on gender stereotypes were more pronounced in Libya than the UK, suggesting gender and culture both play a part in how people cope with discomfort.
The research found that of the volunteers, men considered themselves less sensitive, more tolerant to pain and less willing to report pain than a woman.
Likewise, women rated themselves as more sensitive and less tolerant to pain and more willing to report pain than a typical man.
Dr Tashani said: “Traditionally, high levels of stoicism are associated with men and high levels of sensitivity are associated with women.
“Some ethnic groups are described as more stoic, while others are viewed as more free in expressing their pain behaviour.
“We did not detect differences in pain unpleasantness ... We found that Libyans had higher pressure pain thresholds and pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings during the test.
“However, our failure to detect interactions between sex and ethnicity suggests that sex differences in pain sensitivity responses were not affected by ethnicity.”