Do Women and Men Remember Pain Differently?

According to a report published in Current Biology, male humans and mice clearly remember previous painful experiences. However, women and female mice did not seem to be stressed. This article examines the findings behind this claim and how both genders interpret pain.

Males Rate Remembered Pain Higher

The researchers tested 41 men and 38 women between 18 and 40. Participants were put in a room where heat was administered to their forearms. The participants ranked the pain on a 100-point scale. Next, they wore an inflated blood pressure cuff and exercised for 20 minutes.

The next day, participants were taken into the same room as the prior test. The men ranked the heat pain higher than the day before, while the women did not rate it as high.

Perceptions of Pain

Jeffrey Mogil, Ph.D., senior author at the E.P. Taylor, Professor of Pain Studies in McGill’s Department of Psychology, said experiments on pain were previously done on males. Findings from the above study revealed differences between the sexes in how they recall pain.

Mogil also said the research adds more weight to the belief that chronic pain is a memory problem. As such, doctors can now treat the memory of the pain and not just the pain itself.

The Big Issue with Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a serious health problem that affects nearly 50 million Americans. Mogil said the research supports the idea that how people remember pain affects later pain.

He also said males remembered pain better than females and were more stressed by it when they did remember. However, Mogil said this does not mean men are more sensitive to pain but are more stressed when they recall it.

Anticipating and Recalling the Pain

Dr. Samuel McLean, a professor of anesthesiology, emergency medicine, and psychiatry, said the study’s findings suggest evolution may have shaped how males anticipate recurrent painful situations differently from women. He also said how people anticipate an occurrence can affect how much pain they experience.


Researchers reported that human men and male mice remember previous painful experiences clearly. Still, they were very sensitive and more stressed by later pain when they returned to where the pain happened. On the other hand, women and female mice did not seem to be stressed.

According to experts, evolution may have shaped how males anticipate recurrent painful experiences differently from females.