Does gender affect appraisal of pain and pain coping strategies?

Clin J Pain. 1999 Mar;15(1):31-40. doi: 10.1097/00002508-199903000-00006.


Objective: To investigate the impact of gender and a set of pain characteristics on the threat or challenge appraisal of pain and the impact of these appraisals on the coping strategies used to manage the pain.

Design: This study used a community telephone survey to examine these relationships for a troublesome pain experienced by respondents in the 2 weeks preceding the interview. STUDY RESPONDENTS: The sampling frame consisted of 1,430 households randomly selected from the Halifax-Dartmouth-Bedford community. Of the 390 respondents with a troublesome pain in the 2 weeks preceding the interview, 309 respondents agreed to participate (79% response rate).

Results: Women tended to report more pain located in the head and more somatic problems. They reported significantly more intense pain. For women and men, the most important impact on threat appraisal of pain was overall interference of pain and emotional upset due to pain. These two variables accounted for 48% of the variance in threat appraisal for women and 37% of the variance for men. There was no gender difference in emotional upset due to pain or in the impact of emotional upset on threat appraisal. There was no gender difference in challenge appraisal. Threat appraisal was associated with increased catastrophizing whereas challenge appraisal was associated with positive self-statements. Women reported significantly more problem solving, social support, positive self-statements, and palliative behaviors than did men.

Conclusions: Interference of pain has a greater impact on threat appraisal of pain for women. Increasing threat appraisal is associated with health care utilization for women, but women's more frequent use of several coping strategies is unrelated to their appraisal of pain. Appraisal of pain may have important implications on coping and overall well-being of women and men.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Health Resources / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Surveys and Questionnaires