Women’s pain ignored or not taken seriously, poll suggests

‘It is clear from the research that there is a gender pain gap,’ expert says

Astrid Cooper
Monday 14 November 2022 10:18 GMT
<p>GPs commonly dismiss how women feel, according to the results </p>

GPs commonly dismiss how women feel, according to the results

Women feel their pain is not taken seriously and is often ignored or they are deemed “emotional”, according to a poll.

A survey of 5,100 adults found 56 per cent of women felt the pain they experienced was ignored or dismissed, with 50 per cent of those feeling this way when seeking support from a GP.

More than one-quarter, or 27 per cent, said they had felt the same when opening up to other healthcare professionals.

A similar proportion felt their partner or significant other had been dismissive of their discomfort, with 21 per cent saying the same about friends.

Of those who felt their pain was ignored or dismissed, 24 per cent of women compared to 17 per cent of men said, generally, no one took their pain seriously.

In fact, nearly half (48 per cent) of all adults surveyed believed there was a ”gap” in the identification and treatment of pain between sexes.

The research was commissioned by Nurofen. Of the adults surveyed who think the gender pain gap exists, 63 per cent of women and only 39 per cent of men believe women are not always taken as seriously because they are viewed as “emotional”.

Dr Elinor Cleghorn, feminist cultural historian and author of Unwell Women, who advised on the report, said: “Gender bias in medical knowledge, research and practice is deeply ingrained.

“Today, we are facing up to the consequences of centuries-long discriminatory misbeliefs about women’s pain.

“The misunderstanding, minimisation 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.

“It is clear from the research that there is a gender pain gap when it comes to the experience of women’s pain. We need to take action to tackle this long-standing issue.”

The study also found that when experiencing pain, 74 per cent of women regularly chose self-care over seeing a healthcare professional, compared to 60 per cent of men.

Nearly one-third of women (31 per cent) worried about wasting their healthcare professionals’ time, and 27 per cent felt it was easier to self-diagnose due to wait times.

Yet, one in six women (16 per cent) said they experienced severe pain on any given day.

The research, conducted via OnePoll, found women were more likely to suffer from headaches, migraines, and fibromyalgia, while period pain and endometriosis were also big contributors to discomfort.

In fact, 32 per cent of women suffered from period pain as part of their daily lives, and 18 per cent who suffered from endometriosis pain experienced it for between three and five years.

It also emerged 41 per cent of women have trouble sleeping due to their pain, 39 per cent felt less able to exercise, and 24 per cent felt depressed.

As a result, 65 per cent of all the women surveyed would like more access to information regarding their pain.

Janet Lindsay, from the Wellbeing of Women charity, said: “We hear time and time again of women being dismissed or not taken seriously when it comes to their pain.

“Many women feel they need to put up with discomfort and pain, and that this is a ‘normal’ part of women’s health – and this is completely unacceptable.

“This report highlights the urgent need to address the stark inequalities around women’s pain.

“We must all work together to close the gender health gap once and for all, by improving research, and ensuring better access to information, care and support for women.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in