Associations among Gender, Coping Patterns and Functioning for Individuals with Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review
BACKGROUND: Developing strategies for coping with chronic pain is an integral part of successfully living with this often debilitating health condition. While gender differences in pain coping strategies have long been investigated, the relationship between gender-specific engagement in coping and associated functioning in individuals experiencing chronic pain is yet to be clearly understood.OBJECTIVE: The present systematic review focused on studies that address these relationships to critically evaluate the available evidence.METHODS: A systematic search was conducted using MEDLINE via Ovid, EMBASE, PsycINFO and CINAHL, with 7247 titles retrieved. To be included, studies had to be in English, focus on adult participants, consider chronic nonmalignant pain, use measures of coping and functioning (or disability), report on gender-specific outcomes (for coping and functioning [or disability]), and investigate a relationship among gender, coping and functioning. One researcher screened abstracts and full-text articles, and extracted and tabulated data, while two researchers independently assessed potential articles for eligibility and methodological quality.RESULTS: Only seven studies met the inclusion criteria – six of high quality and one of moderate quality. The presented findings suggest that women in pain are more likely to use coping strategies considered to be maladaptive, resulting in poorer functioning, while men tend to engage in coping strategies considered to be adaptive, leading to better functional outcomes.CONCLUSIONS: While there is some evidence supporting gender-specific engagement in coping and associated functioning, future research is necessary to expand understanding of these interrelations.