Department of Psychology

The psychology of sex and gender differences in pain

Pain is a highly prevalent, distressing condition, with up to 40% of the UK population currently reporting persistent pain. This number increases when we include common aches and pains such as headache and minor injury. There are also well established sex differences in both acute and chronic pain, with women experiencing more pain across the lifespan compared to men.

Despite these known sex differences, male-female variation in pain is not routinely considered in research practice. Led by Ed Keogh (Deputy Director), researchers at the Bath Centre of Pain Research at the University of Bath are seeking to change this.

Their research, which spans over 10 years, seeks to better understand the psychology of sex and gender differences in pain. Highlights include one of the first clinical studies to directly explore sex differences in how adults with chronic pain respond to hospital-based interdisciplinary treatment. More recent work has focused on ways in which males and female express pain. This includes the development of new research tools to explore how pain is communicate through body posture and movement. Keogh’s research group has contributed to national and international initiatives to raise awareness about sex and gender issues in pain, including various media activities, presenting at the Houses of Parliament, as well as involvement in developing educational materials for a global awareness campaign.

We seek to inform, educate and challenge a wide range of stakeholders (e.g., researchers, patients, healthcare professionals, and the general public), with the ultimate goal to ensure that sex and gender issues are routinely considered in research, thinking and practice around pain.