Study Finds Women Feel Less Pain When Holding the Hand of Someone They Love

There’s real evidence of the positive effects of caring human touch. Society is pained by many problems that it shouldn’t have, and an approach such as this one that isn’t opiate-based (seeing what that approach has done to society) should therefore be encouraged more.

A small team of researchers from the University of Colorado, the University of Haifa and University Paris Diderot has found that women sense less pain when holding the hand of a person they love. In their paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes the experiments they conducted in which women were exposed to some degree of pain and were then asked to report how painful it felt under different conditions.

In modern times, it has become common in some countries for husbands (or other loved ones) to be invited into the to offer comfort as a woman experiences the pain of childbirth. But does such hand-holding actually offer any benefits to the woman in pain? To test for that possibility, the researchers enlisted the assistance of 20 couples willing to undergo several experiments.

The experiments consisted of having the women hold onto a tube through which could be pumped to induce pain. Then the women and their significant others were placed in different sorts of situations. In some, the man held the woman’s hand as the hot water was applied; in others, the man sat nearby but did not offer a hand. In others, the man sat in a nearby room. In all of the cases, both volunteers were asked to rate the degree of pain the woman was experiencing.

In looking at the results of their experiments, the researchers found that the women reported on average experiencing less than half as much pain when they were holding their loved one’s hand. And it went both ways—the men in the group were most accurate in matching the reported by the women when they were holding her hand during her painful experience. The team also found that couples whose EEG printout was most similar coincided with the lowest reports of pain by the women.

The researchers suggest that hand holding can offer two types of benefits to a person in pain. The first is that touching or being touched releases chemicals in the brain that make pain easier to bear. The second is that there appeared to be some sort of synchronizing going on in the brains of the couples that offered an analgesic-like effect, some of which, they note, might have an empathetic component.

Advertisements

Icelandic Law Now Punishes Companies for Paying Women Less Than Men

Punishing gender discrimination is good news out of Iceland, and it serves as a model for other countries.

Iceland began the new year by becoming the first country in the world to mandate that all its companies must pay men and women equally. Following years of passing legislation promoting equal pay, employers that fail to ensure pay parity will now be subject to fines, thanks to a law passed last spring that went into effect Monday.

“We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap,” Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association told Al Jazeera. “We have managed to raise awareness, and we have managed to get to the point that people realize that the legislation we have had in place is not working, and we need to do something more.”

Under the new law, companies that employ more than 25 people will have to prove to the government that they’re paying men and women equally. Officials hope the move will help Iceland to completely close its gender wage gap by 2020.

Iceland has long been admired by progressives as a model of gender equality, filling nearly 50 percent of its parliament seats with women. Supporters of the new law say it couldn’t have been put into action without the strong presence of female lawmakers.

For the past nine years, the small island country has been the world’s highest-ranking nation in terms of gender equality according to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report. Iceland has managed to close its gender gap by about 10 percent since the report was first compiled in 2006, according to the WEF’s markers which include political empowerment, economic opportunity, and education access as well as compensation.

As Iceland makes strides in its gender equality goals, the United States’ gender wage gap has been narrowing slowly, with women earning 83 percent of men’s salaries. The U.S. ranks at number 49 on the WEF’s list; less than 20 percent of members of Congress are women.

According to the American Association of University Women, at the wage gap’s current rate of narrowing, American women would have to wait until 2119 to be paid equally to their male counterparts. The Trump administration has shown little interest in improving the gap, with the president suspending an Obama-era rule which required employers to provide the government with pay equity data.

Supporters congratulated Iceland on its new system while lamenting the United States’ failure to take similar steps.

Surveys Reveal Pervasive Sexual Harassment of Women Across Industries

This is largely out of the spotlight, and that makes it all the more important. The discrimination against women also manifests itself in a gap in pay — in the U.S., that means women are often payed 80 cents instead of the $1 a male would probably earn. Women want the whole damn dollar, and they should receive it.

Amid a wave of new sexual harassment and assault allegations in politics and news media this week, two polls released Tuesday illustrate how pervasive such behavior is in many other industries across America, with 35-40 percent of women reporting they have been harassed at work.

A survey (pdf) conducted in mid-November by PBS NewsHour, NPR, and Marist found that 35 percent of women and 9 percent of men have “experienced sexual harassment or abuse from someone in the workplace.” A Quinnipiac University poll, also conducted in mid-November, found that 60 percent of women have been sexual harassed generally, and 69 percent of those women said it happened at work; it also found 20 percent of men have experienced sexual harassment, the majority of which also took place at work.

The results follow a series of reports in recent weeks that have highlighted how women working in service industries, such as hotels and restaurants, are especially susceptible to sexual harassment and assault. Other reports have examined how immigrants, particularly those who are undocumented, often experience abuse. Although such findings have been well documented for several years, these issues have received heightened attention lately, as several high-profile people have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct, and survivors have turned to social media with the hashtag #MeToo to share their stories.