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Over half of UK women feel their pain is ignored or dismissed, new report shows

The Gender Pain Gap Index Report highlights stark inequalities around women's pain


Women are often not taken seriously, ignored, or deemed ‘emotional’ when it comes to their pain, a new report shows.

A survey of 5,100 UK women and men reveals that over half of women (56%) feel their pain is ignored or dismissed by healthcare professionals. Nearly half (48%) of all adults believe there is a ‘gap’ in the identification and treatment of pain between genders.

The Gender Pain Gap Index Report is published by Nurofen, with support from Wellbeing of Women.

Pain affects women’s everyday lives with 4 in 10 women (41%) saying pain causes trouble sleeping, almost a quarter (24%) say pain has led to them feeling depressed, and 39% felt less able to exercise.

In total, 32% of women suffered from period pain as part of their daily lives, and 18% who suffer from endometriosis pain experienced it for three to five years. 65% of all the women surveyed would like more access to information regarding their pain.

The report also reveals that nearly a third of women (31%) said they didn’t want to waste their healthcare professional's time, and 27% said it was easier to self-diagnose due to wait times.

Out of those who felt their pain was ignored or dismissed, nearly 1 in 4 women versus 1 in 6 men said no one took their pain seriously.

The Gender Pain Gap is influenced by several factors: from the historical lack of medical research into women’s specific pain, the lack of mandatory training for healthcare professionals on women’s conditions and underlying gender biases in society.

The recent broader gender health gap has been highlighted in the UK Government Women’s Health Strategy for England.

Janet Lindsay, CEO at Wellbeing of Women, in support of Nurofen’s Gender Pain Gap Index Report, said: We hear time and time again of women being dismissed or not taken seriously when it comes to their pain. Many women feel they need to put up with discomfort and pain, and that this is a ‘normal’ part of women’s health – and this is completely unacceptable.

"The report highlights the urgent need to address the stark inequalities around women’s pain. We must all work together to close the gender health gap once and for all, by improving research, and ensuring better access to information, care and support for women.”

Dr Elinor Cleghorn, feminist cultural historian and author of Unwell Women, who advised on the Gender Pain Gap Index Report, commented: “Gender bias in medical knowledge, research and practice is deeply ingrained. Today, we are facing up to the consequences of centuries-long discriminatory misbeliefs about women’s pain.

"The misunderstanding, minimization and misdiagnosis of women’s pain-causing health conditions is compounded by the pervasive influence of gender norms and stereotypes that are not only medical, but social and cultural. It is clear from Nurofen’s research that there is a gender gap when it comes to the experience of women’s pain. I am delighted to support Nurofen as we strive for change and take action to tackle this long-standing issue.”

Angela Naef, Chief Research and Development Officer at Reckitt, said: I am very proud to be introducing the very first Nurofen Gender Pain Gap Index Report and to be taking decisive steps to help close the gap once and for all. We are committed to delivering real changes that will, ultimately, improve women’s experience and treatment of pain, and welcome other organisations to join us in our mission.”

For more information, please visit the Nurofen website.

Read about research, education and advocacy work of Wellbeing of Women that is addressing the Gender Health Gap.