Gender role expectations of pain mediate sex differences in cold pain responses in healthy Libyans

Eur J Pain. 2012 Feb;16(2):300-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2011.05.012.


Previous studies found a relationship between response to experimentally-induced pain and scores for the gender role expectations of pain (GREP) questionnaire. Findings were similar in individuals from America, Portugal and Israel suggesting that gender role expectations may be universal. The aim of this study was to translate and validate Arabic GREP using Factor Analysis and to investigate if sex differences to cold-pressor pain in healthy Libyan men and women are mediated through stereotypical social constructs of gender role expectations and/or pain-related anxiety. One hundred fourteen university students (58 women) underwent two cycles of cold pressor pain test to measure pain threshold, tolerance, intensity, and unpleasantness. Participants also completed the Arabic GREP questionnaire and the Pain Anxiety Symptom Scale-Short form (PASS-20). It was found that Libyan men had higher pain thresholds and tolerances than women (mean difference, 95% CI: threshold = 4.69 (s), -0.72 to 10.1, p = 0.005; tolerance = 13.46 (s), 0.5-26.4, p = 0.018). There were significant differences between sexes in 6 out of 12 GREP items (p < 0.004 after Bonferonni adjustment). The results of mediational analysis showed that GREP factors were the mediators of the effects of sex on pain threshold (z = -2.452, p = 0.014 for Self Sensitivity); (z = -2.563, p = 0.01, for Self Endurance) and on pain tolerance (z = -2.538, p = 0.01 for Self Endurance). In conclusion, sex differences in response to pain were mediated by gender role expectations of pain but not pain-related anxiety.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Libya / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / ethnology*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Threshold / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Young Adult