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Nature or Nurture?

Two weeks ago I arrived back from my travels after a month-and-a-half away. Upon knocking at my own front door I was to be greeted by one of my house mates who looked yellow. His first words were not, ‘Welcome back!’ but more ‘Oh.. hi.. I’m going to hospital’. Naturally concerned I accompanied him where he was diagnosed with a ruptured appendix. Poor bastard.

The aforementioned housemate, has had a pretty horrid time of things over the past couple of weeks, with the normally trusty NHS failing to prevent his wound from becoming infected and thus having to constantly nip back into hospital for further diagnosis over the following days. However, all is well now and he is recovering at home.

The reason why I mention this is because during this time it became known to us that my housemate has a low pain threshold. So naturally after the inevitable mocking that took place at his expense (again, poor bastard), I got to thinking: does having a low pain threshold come from nature or nurture?

I think it is generally considered that the amount of pain that one feels comes down to how receptive someone’s nerve endings are; therefore suggesting that it is a nature. According to this article in the telegraph low-pain thresholds can be as a result of premature births. The article (from 2000) refers to a scientific study that claims to provide ‘the first physical evidence that pain experienced by the youngest infants could have the longest-lasting effects: it alters the development of pain pathway circuitry, causing a stronger response to pain in adulthood.’

But I can’t help but wondering whether it is due to perhaps a more cotton-wool wrapped up bringing. Is someone growing up more susceptible to pain if during their development they were cuddles and fussed over every time they fell over or bruised themselves? Or are children likely to have a higher tolerance to pain if they are raised with a ‘stiff-upper-lip’ mindset? Is it possible that ‘pain limits’ are established as a child by the amount of attention we receive from people when we are injured, therefore if one is constantly fussed over then these limits are set low and thus when older your brain intrinsically references these lower levels?

I am no scientist and I guarantee you that I will do little-to-no research in finding out the answers that I have posed here… I was just curious and had a spare half hour to kill.


Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that people who possess either a high or low threshold are better or worse in any way, nor am I suggesting that my housemate has a coddled up-bringing, in fact I have no idea what type he had. I was just following a train of thought..

About Matt

London-based freelancing stylin' profilin' people's champion

One comment

  1. I had a pretty gentle upbringing and yet I never got injured playing sports. In fact, I never fell over once.

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