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6 March 2017

Why Do Women Feel the Cold More Than Men?

According to research, women’s bodies are more sensitive to the cold. There are many biological reasons to explain why men feel the chill less and can get away with perhaps one less layer in the winter months, while women may reach for a thicker jumper.

Firstly, and probably one of the biggest reasons is that fat-to-muscle ratio is higher in women than in men. Men’s higher muscle content means they generate more heat than women in general. The average woman has 20-25% body fat content, while an average man has around 15%. The amount of subcutaneous fat (the layer just beneath the skins surface) is higher with the layer being more even in women, providing more insulation than men’s thinner layer. So while men generate more heat overall, women can keep their heat in for longer.

While everyone’s hands and feet feel the cold more than other body parts, women draw the short straw here too. A female’s hand and feet temperature is on average 2.8 degrees lower than males. The reason for this is to do with blood flow, and a process which women’s bodies go through called vasoconstriction.

Vasoconstriction is simply where the body constricts blood vessels, and women’s bodies constrict blood vessels reaching areas like the hands and feet quicker than men’s bodies do. As reported by the Mail Online, Professor Michael Tipton from the Human and Applied Physiology department at the University of Portsmouth explains; “if you put a man and a woman into the same environment and slowly lower the temperature, the woman will cut blood flow to her extremities — called vasoconstriction — faster and shut them down for longer than the man.”

Heightened vasoconstriction in women also explains why they’re more likely to develop Raynaud’s Syndrome, touched upon in our post around the health risks associated with central heating. Raynaud’s causes pain when extremities such as fingers and toes are exposed to the cold (or a rapid and extreme temperature change) as arteries narrow and go into spasm, interrupting the blood supply.

Hormones also play a part in body temperature differences. During the menstrual cycle, the increased output of oestrogen and lower iron levels means a woman’s red blood cell count decreases, resulting in more heat loss. Professor Tipton explains “‘Oestrogen makes the peripheral blood vessels more sensitive to the cold. This means that women will feel highs and lows in temperature more intensely.”

Finally, the amount of sleep you’re getting can affect how warm or cold you feel. Women are known to be lighter-sleepers, according to a Cambridge University study, which found 2 out of 3 women have trouble falling asleep. And increased fatigue increases sensitivity to temperature changes in your surroundings. 

Laura Sewell

An aspiring journalist, Laura is our content writer intern.  Pop-punk gig-goer and drag queen enthusiast, Laura is working her way into the industry, with an English A -Level and love of writing about anything and everything in tow.