Pain relief brand Nurofen has highlighted how the “gender pain gap” is widening – with women now 11% more likely than men to feel as though their pain is being ignored or dismissed by healthcare experts.
A poll of more than 5,000 Brits found that almost half of women (49%) feel this way, compared to just 38% of men.
And while both these figures have fallen from last year – when 56% of women were experiencing this, compared to 49% of men – it is clear that the number of men feeling this way has dropped more than the number of women.
When it comes to receiving a diagnosis for pain, less than half of women find out what is wrong with them within 11 months – with 14% left waiting a year or more.
This is compared to just 9% of men who have to wait longer than 12 months – with 66% being diagnosed in 11 months or less.
And worryingly, three in ten women feel it takes so long to get an answer because healthcare professionals are not taking their pain seriously, or are even dismissing it. Meanwhile, just 18% of men share these worries.
The research, commissioned by Nurofen as part of its second annual Gender Pain Gap Index Report, highlights that more needs to be done to tackle unconscious gender bias in healthcare.
As a result, the brand has launched its PAIN PASS tool, which helps people talk about their pain with confidence with a healthcare professional.
Chloe Elliot, who waited nine years to get a diagnosis for endometriosis, said: “I believe if I'd have said how I was feeling to my doctor, but I was a different gender, things would have been taken a lot more seriously.
“It’s why I want to urge other women to keep fighting – remember you're not crazy, you're not insane, your pain is real. You know your body better than anybody else. Keep fighting. Push for a diagnosis when you know something isn’t right.”
It also emerged 45% of women who feel uncomfortable talking about their pain are worried they will be judged as a moaner – compared to just 35% of men.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that 23% of women haven't even tried to seek a diagnosis for the pain they experience, compared to just 13% of men.
Dr Marieke Bigg, sociologist and author of “This Won’t Hurt: How Medicine Fails Women”, said: “It’s concerning to see that the gender pain gap has increased.
“Whether this means women are becoming more vocal about the problems they face, or whether medical sexism has intensified, we need to respond to this evidence and make changes to healthcare provision.
“Unfortunately, women’s pain is often dismissed. Healthcare professionals continually misattribute women’s symptoms to stress or “hormones”, while men are more likely to be sent for a physical check – even when complaining of the same type of pain.
“Over time, this has led to women’s pain being overlooked, resulting in a gender pain gap. Women are waiting longer to get a diagnosis for their pain, and do not feel empowered to push for the support they need – this is unacceptable.
“With initiatives like Nurofen’s Gender Pain Gap Index Report, we’re seeing more recognition of the issue – but we are still a long way from closing the gap. Women need to start feeling listened to and supported in getting the help they need.”
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