Ultimately, the study found that female patients were seen as being in less pain than male patients who reported and displayed just as much pain. Researchers concluded such perceptions were explained in part by gender-related stereotypes based on patients’ questionnaires about the topic.
In the future, Losin the researchers on her team hope this study serves as a step in pointing out and addressing gender inequalities in health care.
“I think one critical piece of information that could be conveyed in medical curricula is that people, even those with medical training in other studies, have been found to have consistent demographic biases in how they assess the pain of male and female patients and that these biases impact treatment decisions,” Losin said. “Critically, our results demonstrate that these gender biases are not necessarily accurate. Women are not necessarily more expressive than men, and thus their pain expression should not be discounted.”
The study also comes after reports of medical professionals failing to take the pain of Black patients seriously.
Janice A. Sabin, Ph.D., is a research associate professor, biomedical informatics and medical education at the University of Washington. She has written about the science of implicit bias to health care disparities for the Association of American Medical Colleges. Her research has shown that half of white medical trainees believe myths about how Black people experience pain that can cause disparities in treatment.