Traditional folklore suggests women have a higher pain tolerance than men. I have seen a few sites suggesting otherwise. Naturally, plenty of anecdotal accounts of wussy men or women get tossed around whenever the subject is brought up which makes it a little difficult to sift through the crap. Does either sex have a higher pain tolerance than the other?

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    Mythbusters tested this and found it was also correlated to whether women had undergone a pregnancy.
    – Sklivvz
    May 6, 2011 at 6:02
  • @Sklivvz: Yeah, that makes intuitive sense. I would imagine that experiencing a pregnancy would change quite a few things about how you think about pain.
    – MrHen
    May 6, 2011 at 13:02
  • @Sejanus: Why is the sex tag not apt? This is a question about the sexes.
    – MrHen
    May 6, 2011 at 13:07
  • I figured it's best to keep it reserved for questions about, well, sex. As in sexual intercourse. Feel free to make a thread on tagging sexes and sex related questions in Meta if you think otherwise. Or if anybody thinks otherwise, for that matter
    – user288
    May 6, 2011 at 16:02
  • @Sej: Meta question asked.
    – MrHen
    May 6, 2011 at 16:17

3 Answers 3


According to the test by Psychosomatic Medicine journal (2003), men on average have higher pain tolerance and pain threshold than women.

METHODS: To examine the influence of motivation on perceptual and cardiovascular responses to pain among women and men, different levels of monetary incentive (high vs. low incentive) were provided to a group of 81 healthy young adults undergoing the cold pressor pain procedure. It was anticipated that men would have greater endogenous motivation and would therefore be less affected by the external incentive

RESULTS: Men had higher pain thresholds and tolerances and lower pain ratings than women, but the incentive condition produced no significant effect on pain responses. Resting blood pressure was positively correlated with pain tolerance among the low incentive group, whereas blood pressure reactivity to the cold pressor predicted pain tolerance in the high incentive group.

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    There was also an interesting study about changes in pain tolerance in presence of others. They came to the conclusion that men lower their pain tolerance in presence of women and women have a higher pain tolerance when in presence of men... I'm searching for the study, but can't find it right now...
    – Falco
    Feb 12, 2015 at 16:41
  • User Sklivvz mentionned in a comment that the answer might depend on whether a woman has already been pregnant. If that's true (I honestly don't know), then this study which focuses on young adults (presumably, most of them have been pregrant) cannot mesure that effect.
    – Evargalo
    Oct 9, 2020 at 12:49

Yes, there is a difference in pain perception. To be precise though, the way someone tolerates pain is up to the individual to decide.

Citation: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21147542 (Sex, gender, coping, and self-efficacy: Mediation of sex differences in pain perception in children and adolescents.)

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    What is the difference that you mention?
    – MrHen
    May 6, 2011 at 13:08
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    Welcome to Skeptics! Please quote some of the cited paper where it supports your claims. I don't see where it says "it is up to the individual to decide". The abstract says the study looks at how gender-role expectations, coping with pain, and pain self-efficacy affect pain ratings and pain tolerance, but highlights the gender differences.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 7, 2017 at 14:32

Higher pain tolerance in males can't be bought : Media PR Release from the Centre for Advancing Health

Sex differences in pain perception have been noted in multiple studies, with women typically displaying lower pain tolerance than men, but it is unknown whether the mechanisms underlying these differences are hormonal, genetic or psychosocial in origin. For example, some researchers have suggested that men are more motivated to express a tolerance for pain because masculine stereotyping encourages it, while feminine stereotyping encourages pain expression and lower pain tolerance.

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    There are plenty of sites where low-grade trolling can evoke emotional reactions. Skeptics Stack Exchange is a moderated site, and such behaviour is not tolerated. Please remember our Be Nice policy.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 7, 2017 at 13:00
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    Note: This answer depends on the wrong sort of PR - press release rather than peer review. Finding the original paper, and quoting from its conclusions would be preferable to repeating press releases.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 7, 2017 at 13:02

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