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Lifestyle

Women complain more often about diseases, but men die first, this is what the study shows

Women complain more often about diseases, but men die first, this is what the

In fact, there is some truth to this sexist bias, a scientific study finds. Women complain more often about diseases, men die earlier.

"Women constantly complain that they are sick: sometimes 'my back hurts', then 'my head hurts', and when there are no such complaints, then they use 'leave me alone, I'm depressed'. While men are silent - and die first. This happens in part because they get hit by a car, drop dead from a heart attack, their heart beats faster, or they die in complete peace, or more recently they died of corona.

These statements sound like the talk of "real men" after the fourth beer. Such nasty sexist prejudices can be heard around the world. But this is roughly the conclusion of a large scientific study published in the prestigious medical journal Lancet Public Health, based on the 20 most common diseases and causes of death in all ages and all regions of the world. The reasons for this are however much more complex than imagined.

The difference between the sexes in health becomes apparent as early as adolescence. It is the age not only when the biological differences between the sexes become apparent, but also when the sense of gender belonging - regardless of biological sex - begins to affect life. "It's not just the biological body you're born with. It is also the sense of gender in the environment that causes the differences", explains Professor Sarah Hawkes from University College London.

The causes are numerous and are not only due to physiological differences, or customs in society. Doctors are not without fault either. "We know that there is already a bias in doctors' diagnoses, where women will be diagnosed with a mental disorder much sooner," says one of the study's authors, Luisa Sorio Flor of the American Institute for Health Evaluation.

At the same time, even if they complain of mental disorders, men will be less likely to be sent for therapy, partly because of the prejudice that "men" do not need it. In this way, statistics show a greater number of women suffering from mental disorders.

"Lower back pain" - as pain in the lumbar spine is often called, is a little more difficult to explain. Physiological reasons certainly play a role here, such as greater sensitivity to pain due to hormonal fluctuations, changes in the shape of the skeleton, as well as physical stress, which is easily caused by pregnancy and childbirth.

But there are other studies that prove that even doctors are wrong when it comes to back pain. The study states that both male and female doctors do this, although more detailed research has shown that women's spines are in a much worse condition than men's, who are sent for therapy sooner. The authors of this research believe that even the women themselves do not seek medical help in this case because they are too busy with their workplace, or with home maintenance and family care.

"Women's diseases" are not so important

Sorio Flor and other scientists compared the study data from 1990 to 2021 and found something interesting: "In some categories, fewer cases of the disease can be observed, but the ratio between men and women remains stable." While in the case of "typical women's diseases" - back pain and depression, the difference is very small.

The London professor thinks that sexism exists – throughout the health care system: “I think there's a tendency in health care to equate a woman's health with the ability to reproduce. In the same way, a woman's health is primarily centered on the uterus," believes Hawkes.

The researchers, who published the paper, say they will try to get more and better data, but their growing problem is political correctness. In other words, more and more frequently, the patient's gender, and especially not the gender orientation, is not noted in the diagnoses. This was also seen at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic: if there were better data on the gender of the patients, perhaps some conclusions about better therapy could be drawn from this.

For Sorio Flor, this study first showed a banal fact: "Our results are quite clear. The health needs of men and women are simply different." This should also be a lesson for state health care systems: for "men's" diseases like stroke, there are miracles in all hospitals and there is always money for real space technology. But for "women's" diseases, even when it is mental health, regular savings are made and expenses are cut.