Who's Taking Care of Women?
So often, women are left to take care of themselves. While yes, women are more likely to seek out health care, they frequently face misdiagnosis and mistreatment from their doctors. Over 20% of women feel that they have been dismissed or received worse treatment from a medical professional because of their gender.
Women deserve an equal quality of care; we need to be taking care of women.
In this blog, we’ll explore how the male and female bodies differ and how this gender bias has impacted millions of women throughout the country.
The female body vs. the male:
The main root of differences between male and female bodies is the role of hormones. While yes, men and women have the same hormones (i.e., estrogens, progesterone, and testosterone), there are key differences in production sites, blood concentrations, and their interactions with different organs, systems, and apparatus. Sex hormones work in nearly every part of the body: the distribution of body fat mass and fluids, the maintenance of muscle and bone mass, the hepatic synthesis of many enzymes, and the metabolism. The differences in hormones between the sexes mean all these systems are functioning slightly differently.
One of the most important, and often ignored, issues in women's health is the role of estrogen in the brain. Estrogen plays a key protective role in the female brain- studies have demonstrated estrogen works to defend the healthy brain and works against Alzheimer's Disease. When a woman goes through menopause, her estrogen levels drop and the brain is no longer protected. This is likely why women are over 75% more likely than men to develop Alzheimer's Disease.
Moreover, women are much more likely to be afflicted by a number of different medical conditions, yet the only ones that seem to get any attention are breast cancer and conditions directly related to sex organs.
It may surprise you to learn that women are more frequently inflicted by conditions like:
Heart Attacks- Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women in America. Yet, studies have yet to find a reason why women have higher mortality rates after a heart attack. One study found that when women receive the same heart attack treatments as men, they have the same odds of survival. Women’s higher mortality rate is not due to inferior bodies but to the medical response to their heart attack. This is coupled with men and women having different heart attack symptoms, yet symptoms for men are much more well known.
Autoimmune diseases- Women are 80% more likely to develop an autoimmune disease than men. Researchers have yet to find the true cause behind this phenomenon, but most assume it is due to either genetics or hormonal changes.
Women are 10 times more likely to develop Hashimoto’s disease.
Nine out of 10 people affected with lupus are women.
Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with MS than men.
75% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis are women, and the age of onset tends to be younger.
Mental health conditions- Women have a significantly higher likelihood of developing depression and anxiety in adulthood. In total, women are nearly twice as likely as men to suffer from a mental illness. A recent study performed during the pandemic found that women are more likely to report overall bad mental health and deterioration of well-being. Researchers hypothesize this is due to an increased workload at home and loss of income that disproportionately impacted women throughout the pandemic.
Pain Management- Women are more likely to suffer from a chronic pain disorder, yet many women feel like their pain wasn’t taken seriously by their physician. Moreover, studies have demonstrated women are more likely to be given sedatives for pain, while men are more likely to be given pain medication. This inadequate treatment of women’s pain is linked to gender differences in the perception, description and expression, and coping strategies in regard to pain.
Dementia- Two-thirds of American patients with Alzheimer’s Disorder are women. Yet, in 2016, researchers found that men with dementia receive substantially better care quality than women with the same condition. Women with dementia are less likely to visit the doctor, receive less health monitoring, and are given more potentially dangerous medicine.
Reproductive System Conditions- Long have women faced discrimination in regards to their reproductive system, but endometriosis appears to be the worst. One in 10 women suffers from endometriosis, yet it takes an average of 7 to 8 years to be diagnosed. Young women and girls with the disease are often told pregnancy will cure them. Rates of endometriosis are comparable to that of diabetes, yet diabetes receives much more public funding and attention.
The role of stress:
It may come as no surprise that women are more likely than men to report symptoms of stress and more likely to suffer from mental conditions exacerbated by stress, like anxiety and depression.
This disparity in stress levels and stress-related conditions is likely due to the larger workload placed on women. While men and women may be doing the same amount of labor in the office, it’s at home where the gap widens. The UN reported in 2018 that women do nearly three times as much unpaid domestic work as men. Unfortunately, getting paid to clean your house or wash the dishes is uncommon, causing such labor to not appear as work at all. Even though it’s often just as laborious (if not more so) as any paid job.
Beyond labor within the home, women are also more likely to carry more emotional labor than men. What’s emotional labor? Emotional labor is the labor women often carry out without even realizing it. It’s the labor that goes into appearing calm when inside you’re freaking out. It’s the reason why female managers are more likely to be “surface acting”, expressing calmness and empathy when those are not the emotions they were feeling at the time.
Similar to domestic labor, emotional labor is generally dismissed and not labeled as work, despite being proven to be just as exhausting as paid work. When you combine emotional labor, unpaid domestic labor, and paid labor at work, you have a body that is likely in a state of chronic stress. And, as we know, chronic stress can wreak havoc on every organ and system throughout the body.
So who’s really taking care of women?
Statistically, most women are likely visiting male medical practitioners. As, over 65% of physicians are men. And, unfortunately, despite receiving the same training, there are differences in the quality of care provided by a male physician in comparison to a female.
Multiple studies have demonstrated differences in levels of care between male and female physicians:
A 2018 study analyzed mortality rates of over 580,000 heart attack patients admitted in Florida over the course of 20 years. The researchers found that mortality rates for both women and men were lower when the treating doctor was a woman.
In 2016, Harvard conducted a study on over 1.5 million Medicare patients. The results demonstrated that patients treated by a female physician were less likely to die or be readmitted to the hospital over 30-days than those cared for by men. Statistically, the mortality difference was small, but when applied to the real world, it translates to 32,000 fewer deaths.
We are not using these statistics to suggest women are better doctors than men, but the difference in the implementation of care is likely the reason for such discrepancies. Studies by John Hopkins have proved that female doctors spend more time listening to their patients- on average, an extra 10% of the allotted time.
Another study demonstrated that male doctors are much more likely to interrupt their patients in an effort to refocus the conversation. While male physicians only waited 47 seconds before interrupting, female doctors wait an average of 3 minutes.
Why JCH is different:
With our all-female team, the Johnson Center for Health is unlikely to make biased judgments and assumptions made by male physicians and other healthcare professionals. This is coupled with Dr. Johnson’s long history in the medical field- having worked with patients from every background of every shape and size. Moreover, at JCH, you will receive over an hour per appointment of Dr. Johnson’s unwavering attention- more than triple that of the average healthcare provider.
Dr. Johnson does not rely on sexist stereotypes or assumptions to make a diagnosis for a patient of any gender. Further, with our strong use of genomic testing, the Johnson Center will make every effort to truly understand and provide you with the proper care you deserve.
If you find yourself feeling unheard or unrecognized by your medical care, click here to contact us, or call 276-235-3205 to schedule your complimentary discovery call with Dr. Johnson.
The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach / Norfolk locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!