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The gender pain gap continues to widen

Women in the UK continue to experience longer diagnosis times compared to men, and the disparity is growing.

The gender pain gap has widened with women in the UK experiencing longer diagnosis times compared to men for the same pain types, according to new research from Nurofen.

Less than half (47 per cent) of women surveyed received a diagnosis within 11 months compared to two-thirds (66 per cent) of men. In addition, 14 per cent of women, compared to nine per cent of men, still do not have a diagnosis for their pain after 12 months or longer.

Nurofen’s 2023 Gender Pain Gap Index Report included 5,015 UK adults comprising 51.49 per cent women, 48.21 per cent men and 0.3 per cent nonbinary or alternative gender identity.  

Nearly a third of women surveyed (30 per cent) felt the reason IT took so long to receive a diagnosis for their pain was because their healthcare professional (HCP) did not take their pain seriously or dismissed their pain, compared to less than one in five (18 per cent) of men.

The survey cited multiple barriers women face when seeking help for their pain, including that 45 per cent of women feel uncomfortable talking to certain people about their pain and are worried they would be judged for complaining, compared to 35 per cent of men. Because of this, some 23 per cent of women have not sought a diagnosis for their pain, compared to 13 per cent of men. 


“It’s concerning to see that the gender pain gap has increased,” said Dr Marieke Bigg, sociologist and author of ‘This Won’t Hurt: How Medicine Fails Women’. “Healthcare professionals continually misattribute women’s symptoms to stress or ‘hormones’, while men are more likely to be sent for a physical check – even when complaining of the same type of pain. 

“women are waiting longer to get a diagnosis for their pain, and do not feel empowered to push for the support they need. This is unacceptable.”

Taking steps to tackle the growing pain gap, Nurofen has launched the ‘Pain Pass’ a free downloadable PDF designed to improve conversations and tackle unconscious bias.  

The ‘Pain Pass’ is designed to “empower women to get the support and treatment they need but we can’t close this gap by ourselves”, said Dr Bill Laughey, senior medical scientist at Reckitt. “We’re also calling on policymakers, the healthcare industry and medical stakeholders to come together to implement meaningful changes, such as effective gender bias training for all healthcare professionals.”  

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