A Study Exposed Patient Gender Bias Where Observers Consider Female Pain “Less Intense”

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Researchers have discovered gender bias among patients- male and female- when they express the same amount of pain. According to the study, observers viewed female patients’ pain comparatively less intense than men’s pain.

As per reports, the outcome of the study was a “significant patient gender bias” which could result in disparities in treatments.

According to “Gender biases in the estimation of others’ pain,” the observers have viewed female patients’ pain as less intense and more likely to benefit from psychotherapy versus medication.

According to ANI, the study here involved two experiments, wherein initially 50 participants were asked to view various videos of male and female patients. The patients in the video suffered from shoulder pain performing a series of range of motion exercises using their injured and uninjured shoulders.

The novel research was co-authored by Elizabeth Losin, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Social and Cultural Neuroscience lab at the University of Miami, which was published in the Journal of Pain.

According to Losin, the research probably provides results that are applicable to patients in clinical settings, when compared to the previous studies that used posed actors in their stimuli videos.

Elizabeth Losin explained the study and said, “One of the advantages of using these videos of patients who are actually experiencing pain from an injury is that we have the patients’ ratings of their own pain”.

“We had a ground truth to work with, which we can’t have if it’s a stimulus with an actor pretending to be in pain,” she added.

Facial Action Coding System (FACS) was used to analyse the involved patients’ facial expression and the values in a formula was used to provide an objective score of the intensity of the patients’ pain facial expressions.

Later, in the follow-up experiment, researchers involved 200 participants and replicated the first portion of the study on them. After viewing the videos, the perceivers were next asked to answer the Gender Role Expectation of Pain questionnaire. The outcome was used to measure gender-related stereotypes about pain sensitivity, the endurance of pain, and willingness to report pain.

The researchers further analysed the two results- participant’s responses to the videos and the patient’s self-reported level of pain intensity data. The researcher involved in the study, Losin explained that the ability to analyse observers’ perceptions relative to these two ground truth measures of the patients’ pain in the videos helped them measure bias more accurately.

Additionally, the bias stated here could be defined as a difference in ratings for male and female patients despite the same level of responses.

The study revealed gender-related pain stereotypes towards female patients which were analysed through participants’ responses to the questionnaire provided.

“If the stereotype is to think women are more expressive than men, perhaps ‘overly’ expressive, then the tendency will be to discount women’s pain behaviours,” the assistant professor of psychology said.

Additionally, the study concluded that the gender of the perceivers did not influence pain estimation. Both men and women interpreted women’s pain to be less intense.

Furthermore, the researchers emphasised that the gender of the perceivers did not influence the result as both men and women were involved in interpretation. Also, Losin stated that women are often prescribed less treatment compared to men as well as wait longer to receive that treatment.

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A Study Exposed Patient Gender Bias Where Observers Consider Female Pain “Less Intense”
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