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Why women suffer more pain than men

A new study shows that older women suffer from high intensity pain more often than men

A new study shows that older women suffer from high intensity pain more often than men. The publication opens a new research, based on a gender perspective, on the effect of physical exercise on pain reduction.

Older women have a higher risk of pain than men of the same age. Exploring the causes of this excess risk in women has been the objective of a study developed by scientists of the
Center for Biomedical Research in Epidemiology and Public Health Network (CIBERESP) at the Autonomous University of Madrid, in which experts from the CIBER of Fragility and Healthy Aging (CIBERFES) have also participated.

This work, published in
Mayo Clinic Proceedings and which has been highlighted as an article of the month by this magazine, shows that the greater frequency of some chronic diseases in women, a worse functional state, psychological stress and lower physical activity can explain their increased risk of suffering pain .

Chronic pain is a growing public health problem, particularly in older adults. 20% of the population suffers chronic pain (defined as pain in the majority or every day for the last 6 months). The prevalence of chronic pain increases with age, affecting 60% of those over 65 years.

In addition, chronic pain has a great influence on the health of the elderly, because it reduces physical activity and increases the risk of frailty, falls, physical disability and cognitive impairment. As a result, chronic pain is the leading cause of years lived with disabilities in people from 50 years of age.

Previous research had reported a higher risk of chronic pain in women than in men. In this new work, CIBERESP researchers identify health behaviors and clinical factors that may be associated with this increased risk of pain among women. To do this, they analyzed information from a cohort of 851 women and men aged 63 years or older, who initially did not suffer pain and were followed for three years.

One in four women with high intensity pain

According to Esther Garca Esquinas, principal investigator of the work, the results of this analysis showed a higher incidence of high intensity pain in women (23%), compared to men (13%). "Almost one in four women who do not suffer chronic pain initially developed high intensity pain during follow-up," explains the expert.

Among the factors linked to the excess risk of pain in women "highlights the greater frequency of chronic diseases, especially musculoskeletal disease, the worst state of physical function, the highest levels of psychological stress and the lowest performance of physical activity," he clarifies.

Specifically, a higher frequency in women than in men with musculoskeletal disease, mobility problems and agility accounted for, respectively, 31%, 47% and 32% of the excess risk observed in women compared to men.

Other relevant mediators of excess risk in women were psychological stress (25%), depression (9%), poor sleep quality (11%) and low levels of physical recreational activity (13%).

The work emphasizes the importance of studying possible biological factors specific to sex and their interaction with lifestyles to better understand the differences in risk of pain between men and women.

"Our conclusions also open a new way about the effect of physical exercise to reduce the excess risk of pain observed in women," concludes Esther Garca Esquinas.

SINC Agency


Why women suffer more pain than men – LA NACION