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Healthcare professionals' gender stereotypes may affect pain management in men and women
Lucy Price on June 19, 2018 at 9:43 am
Gender differences and stereotypes relating to pain have been investigated for some time. Now, a new study published in the Journal of Pain Research indicates that healthcare providers may be influenced by gender stereotypes when managing patient pain.
The Roles of Gender and Profession on Gender Role Expectations of Pain In Health Care Professionals, looked at whether healthcare providers have gender role expectations in regard to their patient’s pain, and if this affected their pain management decision making.
Wesolowicz et al. used The Gender Role Expectations of Pain Questionnaire (GREP) developed to identify sex-related stereotypic attributions of pain relating to sensitivity, endurance and willingness to report pain. The GREP questionnaire had previously not been used to assess healthcare professionals.
Previous experimental studies have found that healthcare professionals are more inclined to believe that women exaggerate their pain, and are less likely to hide it. Wesolowicz et al. highlight that these biases may affect patient treatment as female patients are less likely to receive more aggressive analgesics than men.
In their study, the authors hypothesized that both male and female healthcare providers would endorse stereotypic views of pain such as increased pain endurance in men and increased pain sensitivity in women, and that physicians would be more likely to endorse these views than dentists.
Commenting on their results the authors state “Our results suggest that physicians and dentists tend to hold some of the same stereotypes as the general population regarding gender and pain; specifically, providers of both genders reported they believed the typical man was less willing to report pain than the typical woman.”
They continued “Past literature suggests healthcare providers and trainees tend to view women as more likely to exaggerate their pain, and are less likely to recommend psychosocial treatments to men. This study provides possible insights into gender-based pain management disparities. Further work is needed to examine how educational efforts can be developed to address gender-related biases in pain management.”