There is increasing evidence to suggest that anxiety is related more strongly to chronic pain experience in men relative to women. The aim of the present study was to examine for the first time gender-specific associations between anxiety and chronic pain experience in men and women exposed to whiplash trauma.
One thousand seven hundred and nine people with whiplash (1349 women, 360 men) belonging to the Danish Society for Polio, Traffic, and Accident Victims completed a battery of questionnaires measuring demographic, psychologic, and pain-related factors (including frequency of painful episodes, level of pain interference, number of anatomic regions in which pain was felt, and the level of general disability).
Anxiety was found to be positively related to the level of general disability to a significantly stronger magnitude in men compared with women. A trend difference in correlation magnitude was also found between men and women when comparing anxiety with pain frequency, with the magnitude of correlation being higher in men.
The stronger association between anxiety and symptoms of whiplash trauma in men compared with women may be due to gender differences in the attribution of anxiety-related autonomic arousal as symptoms of whiplash injury. Alternatively, anxiety may differentially affect the willingness of men and women to report pain and other health indices. Anxiety is an important factor in understanding gender differences in whiplash-related symptoms such as chronic pain and disability, and requires further investigation.