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11 Everyday Things That Affect Men and Women Surprisingly Very Differently

There's a biological reason why men love action movies—and women like to snuggle when they watch it.

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Pub crawls

Thanks to their smaller size and higher body fat percentage, women are generally affected by alcohol faster and after fewer drinks than men. (Not to mention that too much alcohol can up women’s risk of breast cancer.) But it’s men’s brains that are affected most by long-term drinking, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology. Researchers found that men experienced significant electrical and chemical changes in their brains, especially in a key neurotransmitter that is responsible for calming and inhibiting, that women did not. (Although both groups of heavy drinkers showed problematic brain changes, so don’t see this as permission to binge drink, ladies!)

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Pain medications

Bad news for the fairer sex: Women are far more likely to experience chronic pain than men, and to add insult to injury (literally), they need more pain medication to feel relief. Female brains show more neural activity in the pain regions of the brain than male brains, which may explain why women need twice as much morphine as men typically do, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience. This is just one of the things doctors aren’t telling you about the risks of pain killers.

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Exercise

When it comes to physical fitness men definitely have the edge, thanks to their larger lungs and heart and their higher muscle mass. But even though women may not be able to out-lift or out-run the men, they may reap more health benefits from both cardiovascular exercise (like running) and high-intensity interval training sessions (like sprinting alternated with jogging), according to two new studies. Females showed more improvements in heart-health markers than males did and the changes seemed to last longer. However, a third study found that men are more likely to be physically active over the course of their lives than women. Not much of an exerciser? It’s not too late: Try these 25 simple tricks to get into fitness.

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Slot machines

Gambling used to be seen as a manly activity with women stuck in the bingo hall or blowing on dice, but that old stereotype is no longer true. These days men and women engage in gambling in roughly equal numbers and are equally likely to become addicted. But the genders split when it comes to how they manifest their addiction, according to research published in the Journal of Gambling Studies. Men are more likely to be angry and take their feelings out on machines or other people while women are more likely to internalize their sadness, making them at a higher risk for depression.

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Air conditioning

Women aren’t just being drama queens when they haul out their sweaters in movie theaters, restaurants, and offices during the height of summer. Ladies are legitimately chilled as they are physiologically more sensitive to cold air, like that from aggressive air conditioning, than men are. Women’s core body temperatures are slightly higher than men’s but their extremities are colder, by about three degrees, and they feel cold faster than men do, according to several research studies. So men, the next time you head out to a movie with your partner share the love—and the warmth!—by holding her hands or putting your arm around her (not that you needed an excuse to do that!).

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Paint swatches

The old stereotype of a woman holding up paint chips for consideration only to have the man reply that they all look the same to him may be more fact than fiction, according to a study that found that male brains are less able to discriminate between shades of colors, particularly those in the middle of the spectrum. Not only do women see color differences better but they’re also more likely to see color at all as men are five times more likely to be partially or fully color blind, according to a second study. Still stymied by what color to pain your walls? Use our handy guide for choosing the perfect paint colors.

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Action movies

There may be another reason besides testosterone-heavy fight scenes that make many men gravitate towards action movies—they may actually be able to see them better. Male brains showed significantly greater sensitivity to fine detail and a heightened ability to process rapidly moving stimuli (two core features of action movies), according to a study published in The Biology of Sex Differences. The researchers chalk it up to the fact that throughout human history men were typically hunters, so being able to spot subtle differences and track movements were survival skills. (Although thanks to women’s superior language processing skills, they’ll be able to recall the most memorable movie quotes later on when you’re remembering the fun!)

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Noisy neighbors

File this under depressing but true: Men are five and a half times more likely to lose their hearing than women, according to a study done by Johns Hopkins University. Though the researchers noted that this may not be as much from biological differences as from men being more likely to work jobs in very noisy environments without proper protection. The downside is that men need hearing aids more often and at an earlier age than most women. But, hey, at least the gents can get a solid night’s sleep, unbothered by noisy neighbors or feral cats! (If noisy neighbors are an ongoing problem where you live, try this handy gadget.)

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Garbage

What is that smell? is a common refrain among women, much to the amusement of their male partners. But it’s not just that the men are being manly and pretending to not be bothered by foul odors, it’s that they’re less likely to actually smell them. Female brains have an average of 43 percent more cells and almost 50 percent more neurons in their olfactory centers (the part dedicated to smelling and odors) than male brains do, according to a study published in PLoS ONE. Maybe that’s why the mom usually catches the dirty diapers first? Regardless of who in your house is most sensitive to smells, you’ll all love these 11 simple home deodorizer tricks.

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Moral decisions

Every day people have to make dozens of moral choices: Do you fudge the truth about your role in a big work project or be factual? Should you pay for the spaghetti sauce the cashier forgot to ring up or enjoy your free dinner? Most of the time these decisions happen automatically, based on each person’s moral code. (Think you’d never make an immoral choice? Here are some of the reasons people tell little lies all the time.) But when it comes to moral decisions that require some sacrifice—think torturing a terrorist to get information about a bombing plan—men are more likely to accept harm for the sake of the greater good, says a study published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. To put it bluntly, women are more worried about the means to the end, while men are more concerned with the end result.

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Obesity

At least half of American adults will struggle with obesity at some point in their lives and more than one-third of Americans today are obese, with 40 percent of women and 35 percent of men having a BMI of 30 or higher. But while more women are obese, they’re less likely to suffer health consequences from it and less likely to die earlier from it than men, according to a study published in Obesity Reviews. This may be due to some physical characteristics—such as the fact that women are more likely to carry weight in less harmful places like their legs and hips while men are more likely to carry it in the “danger zone” around their abdomen—and well as social traits, like the fact that women are more likely to seek medical care than men.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen has been covering health and fitness for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 13 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She teaches fitness classes in her spare time. She lives in Denver with her husband, four children, and three pets.