Why Do Men and Women Feel Temperature Differently?

If you’re shedding layers of jumpers while others are turning up the thermostat, you’re right to wonder why we all feel temperature so differently.

Cold ThermometerMany factors affect our sensitivity to cold and warmth including age, activity level, diet, psychological wellbeing and sleeping habits. However, there is also a general divide between the sexes with regards to temperature, too.

 

Here’s why.

 

How The Body Regulates Temperature

 

The human body has evolved over millennia to keep its core temperature within a narrow range, even when external temperatures are at extremes.

When you are too hot, the blood vessels nearest the surface of the skin dilate to allow more blood to flow through them and therefore lose more heat to the atmosphere. You’ll know this is happening if you look flushed and are sweating.
When you are too cold, these same vessels contract to minimise heat loss from the surface of the skin. In extreme cases, these vessels are closed off entirely to protect the core temperature, though this often leads to damaged limbs and hypothermia.


The ideal core temperature is 37℃
, however, this fluctuates up to 1℃ either way throughout the day. Factors affecting core temperature may include age, illness, pregnancy and hormonal contraceptives.

 

Physiological Differences Between Men and Women


Though both men and women maintain stable core temperature, temperatures in the hands, feet and extremities is what causes you to feel hot or cold.
Several studies, including two published in The Lancet, have discovered that womens’ hand temperatures are typically 2.8℃ lower than mens’ on average. It’s thought that the physiological differences such as size, weight and bodily proportions affect a person’s ability to maintain heat.

Women typically have a higher ratio of ‘surface area to volume’ and are generally smaller,
which causes a more rapid rate of heat loss. Men also have a greater muscle mass than women and muscle mass generates at least 25% of body heat even when stationary.

Because of this, evolution has caused women to be more efficient at keeping the core warm but this is at the expense of being more sensitive to the cold and having a high sensitivity on the skin’s surface generally.

 

The Ideal Office Temperature Is Therefore Unattainable


This raises the question, yet again, of the ideal office temperature (an environment that featured heavily in these studies). It is proposed that most office temperature studies have been conducted using an androcentric lens (i.e. are by men, for men) and didn’t consider a gender divide.

 

Therefore, it’s been proposed that the golden fleece of the perfect office temperature (to increase productivity) is unattainable for all employees, with women’s ideal temperature being potentially 2.5℃ higher than those quoted by male researchers.

 
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