You may be familiar with some of the research regarding women and health care. For example, you may know that women have a harder time getting doctors to take their pain seriously. Or you may have personally experienced having your symptoms dismissed by your doctor or medical community. Maybe it took longer for you to be diagnosed than it really should have. There are documented biases toward men and women in the medical community, and women by and large suffer more for them. But now, a large and comprehensive study is showing us just how ingrained and serious these biases can be. Researchers have confirmed, after a multi-year study of the Danish population, that it can take years longer for women to be diagnosed than men, even when it comes to the exact same diseases.
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, looked at hospital admissions for the entire Danish population (approximately seven million people) over the last twenty years. They analyzed the ages at which men were diagnosed with different diseases, and compared them to the ages at which women were diagnosed with the same diseases. It's important to note that researchers looked at a variety of different diseases which are common or present in both men and women.
In almost every single instance, men were diagnosed years before women (and, for the very same diseases). For example, women were diagnosed with cancer an average of 2 1/2 years later than men. Women were diagnosed nearly 5 years later than men when it came to diabetes. On average, women were diagnosed four years later than men across the board.
Researchers had a few theories to help explain this troubling pattern. First, as we mentioned earlier, women's pain tends to be dismissed by doctors, while men's symptoms are taken more seriously. Second, some diseases like heart disease are still considered men's diseases, despite the fact that millions of women suffer from the same conditions. Finally, symptoms in women may present differently than they do in men. For example, heart attack symptoms in women are vastly different than men; they can be more subtle and easier to miss (or dismiss).
It's incredibly troubling, but this research probably doesn't come as a surprise to a lot of women. The medical community as a whole needs to do better when it comes to understanding and treating women. Their lives, quite literally, depend on it.