Several health issues widely reported in men, but understudied in women
By Jessica Berget, Assistant Editor
Women are five times more likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer and two-thirds of heart disease research is still focused on men.
While many argue women have made leaps and bounds toward equality in the past few decades, there is still an issue in reporting and studying women’s health. Historically, medicine and health were widely studied in men while women were sometimes banned from participating in studies and generally ignored in this field. This is because many believed men’s and women’s bodies to be the same, so what applies to men must apply to women. And while there are some major similarities, there are also subtle differences that make all the difference in women’s health. What’s more is that some physical and mental health issues are widely associated with men but also experienced by women, so it often goes unnoticed and underreported in females.
While many might assume heart problems are more common with men, one of the major health conditions that affect women that goes underreported is heart disease. Three of the major leading causes of death in women in Canada today are heart disease, stroke, and heart failure. This is because the signs of a heart attack or heart issues are different between women and men and many women do not know the signs of a heart attack in their own bodies. More than 20 percent of women also report that they would not want to bother their families if they had heart concerns.
A 2018 report by the Heart and Stroke Foundation shows how this lack of women-focused medical research affects women today. They estimate that a woman dies from heart disease every 20 minutes in Canada and that early signs of an impending heart attack were missed in 78 percent of women. It also says women are five times more likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer and two-thirds of heart disease research is still focused on men. Women are also more likely to die of a heart attack or have a second one within six months of their first cardiac event.
Women’s mental health also often goes overlooked as they exhibit different behaviours and symptoms for these mental afflictions than men. For instance, autism in girls is often under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed as another mental disorder because they show different symptoms or appear higher functioning, so it’s not noticed. Many women also go undiagnosed even if they have ADD or ADHD because the symptoms are different between men and women, and many only know the signs when exhibited in males. While many would imagine children with these afflictions to be loud and disruptive, girls with ADHD/ADD are often daydreaming or exhibiting unfocused behaviour. Of course, this behaviour is much less noticed by teachers, so female students suffering from this also go unnoticed. Girls need to have these things diagnosed as soon as possible as many women suffer from depression and anxiety as a result of their misdiagnoses or lack of diagnoses.
Another issue that is commonly associated with men is pornography addiction. While it is more common with men, it is becoming more common with women and can lead to low self-esteem and depression. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also something that is mostly associated with men because they tend to be in more stressful and traumatic experiences like combat, physical assaults, and accidents. However, women are more likely to report having PTSD and are more prone to experience sexual abuse and child abuse which can cause PTSD.