The gender pain gap is real – so why is nobody listening?

Thousands of women are having their pain dismissed or ignored, new research by Nurofen has revealed.

Dealing with pain is difficult enough – let alone when the people around you deny that it exists. But that’s something over half of women (56%) have experienced in the past, according to new research into the gender pain gap.

Commissioned by the medication brand Nurofen, the Gender Pain Gap Index Report reveals the extent to which women are having their pain ignored or explained away in a stark difference to their male counterparts.

The survey of 5,100 UK women and men – which asked them to share their experience, treatment and awareness of pain – found that, while one in six women experience pain every day, almost one in four women who have had their pain ignored or dismissed in the past feel like no one takes their pain seriously.  

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This air of scepticism surrounding women’s pain has had a knock-on effect. Indeed, according to the survey, nearly three-quarters of women (74%) now choose self-care over seeing a healthcare professional when treating their pain, compared to just 60% of men. And almost a quarter (24%) of the women surveyed also reported that pain had led to them feeling depressed, compared to 18% of men.

While it’s well-known that health outcomes between men and women vary greatly – you’ve probably heard of the ‘gender health gap’ in the past – Nurofen’s research is a horrifying reminder of just how pressing the issue remains.  

From a lack of research to sexist and reductive attitudes, women face a number of barriers when it comes to seeking healthcare – and it’s about time something was done to remedy the disparity women across the UK are facing. 

Over half of women have had their pain ignored or dismissed in the past.

“Gender bias in medical knowledge, research and practice is deeply ingrained,” says Dr Elinor Cleghorn, a feminist cultural historian and author of the book Unwell Women. Cleghorn, who served as an advisor on the Gender Pain Gap Index Report, says the results it has exposed are the consequences of “centuries-long discriminatory misbeliefs” about women and their experience of pain.

“The misunderstanding, minimization and misdiagnosis of women’s pain-causing health conditions is compounded by the pervasive influence of gender norms and stereotypes that are not only medical, but social and cultural,” she continues.

“It is clear from Nurofen’s research that there is a gender gap when it comes to the experience of women’s pain. I am delighted to support Nurofen as we strive for change and take action to tackle this long-standing issue.” 

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The one consolation? Things might be changing. Last year, the government announced its long-awaited women’s health strategy, which aimed to address the “deep-seated, systemic” issues that stop women from receiving the same care as men – and while the changes will be introduced over a period of 10 years, it’s a good starting point.

However, with women’s health conditions like endometriosis still often going undiagnosed – leaving thousands of women in unexplained pain – it’s safe to say these changes cannot come soon enough.

For too long, women have struggled to access the healthcare and compassion they deserve – and it’s about time something is done to address this long-standing issue. To check out what Nurofen is doing to address the gender pain gap, you can visit its website.

Images: Getty

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