Physical Pain, Gender, and the State of the Economy in 146 Nations

Social Science & Medicine

Authors: Prof. Andrew Oswald Dr. Lucía Macchia

Lucía Macchia and Andrew J. Oswald

Physical pain is one of the most severe of human experiences. It is thus one of the most important to understand. This paper reports the first cross-country study of the links between physical pain and the state of the economy. A key issue examined is how the level of pain in a society is influenced by the unemployment rate. The study uses pooled cross-sectional Gallup data from 146 countries (total N > 1.3 million). It estimates fixed-effects regression equations that control for personal characteristics. 

This study provides the first cross-country evidence that the level of physical pain in a nation depends on the state of the economy. Pain is high when the unemployment rate is high. That is not because of greater pain among people who lose their jobs — it extends far beyond that into wider society. The increase in physical pain in a downturn is experienced disproportionately by women.

View more…