Objective: To determine if differences exist between men and women in their reports and evaluations of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms, and, if so, to identify explanations of those differences.
Method: Data from a longitudinal panel study of persons with RA were used. Symptom reports were defined as individuals' evaluation of body states, e.g., evaluations of the severity of pain. Analyses were controlled for sociodemographic, clinical, and psychological characteristics.
Results: In unadjusted analyses, women were more likely to evaluate their symptoms as severe. Adjustment for sociodemographic and clinical characteristics changed these results very little. Controlling for depressive symptoms decreased the magnitude of associations somewhat. Analyses controlling for additional respondent-reported clinical characteristics (Health Assessment Questionnaire score, number of painful joints) yielded dramatically different results; in no case did women evaluate their symptoms significantly more severely than men.
Conclusion: Our analyses suggest that women reported more severe symptoms, but that these differences may be due to more severe disease rather than a tendency by women to over-report symptoms or over-rate symptom severity. Future research should examine whether physicians respond to reports or prescribe treatments differently for men and women.