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The gender pain gap: gender inequalities in pain across 19 European countries

Bimpong, K. and Thomson, K. and McNamara, C. L. and Balaj, M. and Akhter, N. and Bambra, C. and Todd , A. (2022) 'The gender pain gap: gender inequalities in pain across 19 European countries.', Scandinavian journal of public health., 50 (2). pp. 287-294.


Aims: Chronic pain is increasingly considered to be an international public health issue – but gender differences in chronic pain in Europe are under-examined. This work aimed to examine gender inequalities in pain across Europe. Methods: Data for 27,552 men and women aged 25-74 years in 19 European countries were taken from the social determinants of health module of the European Social Survey (2014). Inequalities in reporting pain were measured by means of adjusted rate differences (ARD) and relative adjusted rate risks (ARR). Results: At the pooled pan-European level, a greater proportion of women (62.3%) reported pain than men (55.5%) (ARD 5.5% [95% CI 4.1%, 6.9%], ARR 1.10 [95% CI 1.08, 1.13]). These inequalities were greatest for back/neck pain (ARD 5.8% [95% CI 4.4%, 7.1%], ARR 1.15 [95% CI 1.12, 1.19]), but were also significant for hand/arm pain (ARD 4.6% [95% CI 3.5%, 5.7%], ARR 1.24 [95% CI 1.17, 1.30]), and foot/leg pain (ARD 2.6% [95% CI 1.5%, 3.8%], ARR 1.12 [95% CI 1.07, 1.18]). There was considerable cross‐national variation in gender pain inequalities across European countries. Conclusions: Significant gender pain inequalities exist across Europe whereby women experience more pain than men; this was most pronounced for back/neck pain. The extent of the gender pain gap varies by country. The gender pain gap is a public health concern, and should be considered in future prevention and management strategies.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Date accepted:14 December 2020
Date deposited:08 January 2021
Date of first online publication:10 February 2021
Date first made open access:08 January 2021

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