Your wife is (probably) not shivering to be dramatic, asking for your coat to look fashionable, or messing with the thermostat to pick a fight. Studies suggest women legitimately feel colder than men, on average, for a combination of physiological, hormonal, and psychological reasons.
Here’s what the science has to say about your freezing cold wife:
She Has Less Blood in Her Extremities
When you get cold, the blood vessels in your hands and feet constrict to redirect blood flow (and heat) towards the center of your body, keeping your most vital organs toasty. Since women tend to have less blood to begin with, this redirection happens faster and leaves their fingers and toes particularly cold. Indeed, studies suggest women conserve more heat than men overall—at the cost of their frozen hands and feet, which are 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit colder than men’s, on average.
She’s Warm on the Inside, but Cold on the Outside
While it’s true that women run hotter than men when it comes to their core temperatures, researchers have argued that skin temperature may be a more effective way to measure cold sensitivity than core temperature. And, as it turns out, women have lower skin temperatures than men, on average.
You Have Important Hormonal Differences
Estrogen can slow blood flow to the hands and feet, and raise women’s core temperatures, making them more sensitive to temperature drops, especially during menstruation. Hormonal birth control can make this even worse. At the same time, male sex hormones like testosterone might desensitize one of the main cold receptors in the skin, research reveals, making men feel ever warmer.
She’s Not as Buff as You
Men have a metabolic rate that’s about 23 percent higher than women’s, which means they burn calories and heat up their bodies faster, on average. And while it’s true that women have larger fat stores (which presumably add some warmth) fat is not nearly as good at keeping us warm as muscle.
And, you guessed it—men have more muscle mass too.
All of Her Friends Are Cold
If a woman is cold, her gal pals are probably cold, not just because of their shared biology or flimsy coats, but because of something social scientists call “cold contagion.” One study found that people’s hand temperatures dropped significantly after they viewed videos of hands being submerged in cold water, indicating that the perception of chilliness can be spread socially. So even if her body isn’t making her cold, her mind is. Either way, be a gentleman. Just hand her your coat.