Do Women feel the cold more than Men?

January 29, 2015

Home heating can spark fierce arguments between couples. Some people sneakily crank up the thermostat when their partners aren’t looking or  turn it off completely. Some people, it seems, feel the cold more than others. And it appears that it’s women more than men who suffer. But why is this? Do Women feel the cold more than Men?  Research is emerging to suggest that our biological thermostats are indeed set to slightly different levels. We all feel the cold to different degrees, depending, yes on our gender, but also on our fitness, age, diet, how much sleep we have and even our weight.

There’s no doubt in my mind men and women experience temperatures differently

But what does science say?
Our initial understanding of body temperature regulation stems from a study in the 19th century which revealed the normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Recent studies show it’s actually a bit lower at 98.2 degrees. But they do confirm the 19th century study that found women’s core temperatures tend to be higher, while noting women’s hands were colder. Proof of the old saying – ..cold hands, warm heart… What these studies don’t discuss is how men and women perceive hot and cold differently. We all perceive cold through temperature changes in our skin, which has four times as many cold sensors as hot. And our extremities are particularly sensitive. So when your hands and feet feel cold, you are cold.

Several factors explain why women tend to feel colder than men

For one, when women feel cold, they constrict blood vessels near the skin surface to retain core body heat, but it makes them feel colder. Women who have colder hands to begin with can also be better at shunting blood from the extremities into the core. That means they feel cold quicker than men.

Other factors influence how people perceive temperature

Both men and women with a high body mass index are more sensitive to cold because their skin is insulated from their body heat by a layer of fat. Age, fitness, hunger, whether you’ve come from a cold or warm place and even psychological factors such as loneliness can also make people more aware of the cold, making it idiosyncratic and variable, even in a single day. Maintaining normal body temperature is so vital our bodies spend more than 75 percent of its energy doing that. Drop it by just two degrees and we can get hypothermia. Then again, according to some other researchers, both men and women may increase their endurance by taking cold showers or running around half-naked in the snow, in case that sounds appealing.

So what does this mean for how cold we feel or how merrily we go forth on a freezing January day?

Our perception of cold may depend mostly on change in skin temperature, which starts dropping when we step outside. People feel cold well before the core temperature dips. So if women tend to start with cold hands,  as a Lancet paper suggest – or if they shunt blood more easily from the extremities to the core, as some researchers show, – they might fell uncomfortable faster. At the same time, feelings of cold and howls of protest probably also depend on all those other variables related to hunger and tiredness. In other words, even if gender is somewhere in the mix so are lots of other particulars.

So if you are feeling cold, put another log in the stove, whether you are a Man or a Woman.