There are several reasons women tend to be more sensitive to cold. They typically are smaller, meaning they have a relatively higher skin surface-to-volume ratio, causing them to lose heat faster, said Boris Kingma, a thermophysiologist at TNO, an applied scientific research organization in the Netherlands. They also have less heat-generating muscle tissue and a lower metabolic rate, the heat-inducing process in which their bodies burn calories for energy, he said.
“The body of smaller people typically has to respond faster to defend itself against cold,” he said, “and that coincides with a cold sensation and discomfort.”
Research has shown that women tend to have a lower skin temperature, particularly on their hands, which may make them feel colder than men. A study in The Lancet found that out of 219 people, female participant’s hands ran about 3 degrees Fahrenheit colder than male participants, but women had a higher average core body temperature, which appeared to be partly influenced by menstrual cycles. When core temperature is only a few tenths of a degree higher and skin temperature is a couple of degrees lower, the sensation of cold will be affected more by skin temperature, Kingma said.
Core body temperature may change during perimenopause and postmenopause. Declines in estrogen can contribute to hot flashes, night sweats and temperature sensitivity, said Jewel Kling, chair of women’s health internal medicine at Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
Women are also at a higher risk for developing certain chronic illnesses and autoimmune conditions, including one that causes hypothyroidism, which can lead to cold sensitivity, among other symptoms.
What else you should know:
Researchers at Tel Aviv University’s School of Zoology studied birds and bats and observed that in higher elevations or cooler environmental temperatures there is a higher proportion of males and, conversely, in warmer conditions there is a higher proportion of females, said Eran Levin, a professor of zoology, who is the lead author of the study.
They hypothesized that sex-related temperature preferences may have evolved because geographical separation reduces resource competition and helps females protect their young.
“This discovery has profound implications,” Levin wrote in an email. “It reminds us that as humans, we are not exceptional beings but rather mammals, and our experiences with the environment align with those of other mammals.”
In general, many women tend to be more sensitive to cold than men. However, hormonal changes, certain medical conditions and other factors can influence temperature sensitivity.
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