Silent suffering: Unmasking the gender pain gap | Bolt Burdon Kemp Silent suffering: Unmasking the gender pain gap | Bolt Burdon Kemp

Find lawyer icon
Find your Lawyer

Free call back
Contact us
Round the clock support
Won't shy away from difficult cases
Committed to swiftly progressing claims

Silent suffering: Unmasking the gender pain gap

It is widely acknowledged the UK has yet to achieve gender parity when it comes to areas such as education, politics, pay and even healthcare. After seeing so many women dismissed in healthcare settings, I wanted to highlight the harm this does to society, not just women, and what is being done about it.

I’ll start in 2022 when Nurofen’s campaign with McCann London, ‘See My Pain’, was launched to delve deeper into the reality of the gender pain gap. They used packaging to share experiences of female pain, finding that women’s pain is poorly understood and disproportionately dismissed compared to men’s pain.

Nurofen’s Gender Pain Gap Index Report demonstrates 50% of women surveyed reported feeling ignored or dismissed by their GP regarding pain, compared with 36% of men. Delays were attributed to healthcare professionals not taking women’s pain seriously. The updated report in 2023 showed the gap widened after 12 months, leading to fewer women seeking help.

Wellbeing of Women supported Nurofen on these issues by commenting that the gender pain gap is influenced by several factors: from the historical lack of medical research into women’s specific pain, the lack of mandatory training for healthcare professionals on women’s conditions and underlying gender biases in society. Nurofen’s public campaign urges action to address clear evidence of unconscious gender bias.

These statistics are clearly shocking but not overly surprising to all of us advocating for improvements in women’s health. At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we see women are far too often dismissed in the healthcare setting. Talking about the gender pain gap can often sound like a feminist issue, but it could amount to one of life and death.

Misdiagnosis, untreated pain, incorrect medicine dosages and delayed treatment can prevent women from working, it affects their social life and makes everyday tasks harder to do. For some women, the mental and physical toll on their health can impact them so much it could have even more serious outcomes, becoming chronic or even fatal.

Nurofen shared real stories from women who have experienced pain dismissal or ignorance. These stories highlight the emotional and physical turmoil caused by having pain overlooked.

Women far too often hear the same rhetoric of “you’re being dramatic”, “maybe you’re stressed”, “it’s all in your head”, “you’re being emotional”.  Nurofen found that one in six women experience severe pain every single day. What if they’re not being dramatic? What if their pain was heard? What if their pain was treated? Then they would have an equal opportunity to men.

The ‘See My Pain’ campaign found that women wait longer for pain diagnoses, even when reporting the same pain as men, with only 47% diagnosed within 11 months compared to 66% of men.

The Pain Pass

Aiming to help women get diagnosed and treated sooner, the pain relief brand has introduced the Pain Pass. This is an easy-to-use tool that empowers people to have more effective conversations with their healthcare providers.

The Pain Pass features a calendar for tracking pain and recording symptoms. This helps individuals navigate their pain journey by articulating how they feel and scaling how the pain disrupts their life with confidence. The Pain Pass also outlines a strategy for women to use when facing gender bias, aided by the acronym PASS: Pause the conversation, Ask for clarity, Speak up, Seek another opinion.

Support from Women’s Health Strategy

The women’s health strategy is a comprehensive plan aimed at improving the health and well-being of women over the next decade. The 10-year strategy details the Government’s ambitions and actions to enhance the health and well-being of women and girls in England. It addresses deep-rooted, systemic issues within the health and care system, aiming to close the gender health gap.

The success of the first 12 months of the Nurofen’s campaign is supported by Minister for Women’s Health, Maria Caulfield, as she said “enormous strides” have been taken.

However, the gender gap in the healthcare sector still needs change. Health and Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins, explained they are continuing to break historical barriers that prevent women getting the care they need, building greater understanding of women’s healthcare issues and ensuring their voices and choices are listened to.  The women’s health strategy in 2024 involves tackling menstrual problems and menopause, maternity care and birth trauma support.

The scale of the problem is really shocking, and this campaign shouldn’t even exist, but we are glad that it is being spoken about. All pain should be seen, regardless of your gender.

Thank you to Nurofen for raising awareness of this issue and delving deeper into understanding the bias that exists when it comes to men and women’s experiences and treatment of pain.

Some of Our Accreditations

See more of our accreditations

We’re here to help you.

Want to talk to one of our experienced lawyers? We can call when it suits you for a no-obligation, strictly confidential chat.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser.

This site (and many others) provides a limited experience on unsupported browsers and not all functionality will work correctly or look its best.