Do Women Really Feel Colder Than Men?

Do Women Really Feel Colder Than Men?

The gendered feud over the temperature setting in the office or at home might be overblown, new government-led research suggests. The study found little difference between how men and women self-reported the chilliness of their surroundings. There was also no major distinction between the sexes in the temperatures needed for shivering to start occurring.

The study was conducted by scientists from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, who were hoping to better understand how the human body regulates its internal body temperature. One particular thing they wanted to clarify was whether there was any truth to the common perception that women feel subjectively colder than men at the same temperature. It’s a perception supported by plenty of anecdotal reports, though only a few studies have ever tried to study it, according to the researchers.

The scientists recruited 16 women and 12 men, all considered healthy and lean, to take part in their experiments. The volunteers first had their baseline metabolic status measured, such as their core body temperature. Then they were asked to sit in a climate-controlled room as the scientists exposed them to periods of varying temperatures over a five-hour span. These temperatures ranged from 63 degrees Fahrenheit to 88 degrees Fahrenheit, and the volunteers were also given clothing that wouldn’t impact their perception of temperature. The volunteers had their metabolic measurements taken again during these temperature changes, were asked if they felt chilly, and were monitored for shivering.

The scientists found no significant difference between men and women in terms of “self-reported thermal comfort” or in needing to shiver to stay warm as temperatures changed. Women did appear to have a “cooler lower critical temperature” than men, meaning that their bodies made metabolic changes to stay warm as the temperature dropped sooner than men did. These changes also meant women on average had a higher core body temperature as the room got colder. The authors concluded that even these differences seem to be the result of women tending to have smaller bodies and higher body fat than men typically do, however.

In other words, there are subtle differences in how people’s bodies regulate themselves as the outside temperature changes. But these differences seem to be largely influenced by a person’s body size and composition, the researchers argue, more than their sex.

The findings are based on a small sample size, so it will likely take more research studying more diverse groups of people to truly settle this debate. But for now, you might be able to take comfort in the possibility that people’s internal comfy setting isn’t largely dictated by whether they’re a man or woman.

“In conclusion, the principal contributors to individual differences in human thermoregulation are physical attributes, including body size and composition, which may be partly mediated by sex,” the authors wrote in their paper, published late last month in the journal PNAS.

Image: iStock

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