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There’s a persistent gender health gap, with women being under-diagnosed for certain conditions, compared to men.

The researchers surmised that a combination of genetics and environment could be at play but that gender bias might also be partly responsible for the difference.

The conditions responsible are:

1. Heart attack 

A study published in The Lancet Regional Health- women were more likely to die after being admitted to hospital with a severe heart attack, but they were also less likely to be prescribed medication to prevent future heart attacks, such as statins.

Previous research has found women were 50% more likely than men to be given an incorrect diagnosis following a heart attack.

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF and a consultant cardiologist told The Times: “Deep-rooted inequalities mean women are under-diagnosed, under-treated and underserved.”

2. Endometriosis 

Endometriosis is referred to as “the missed disease” because so little is still known about it and it’s under-diagnosed.

Globally, it affects 10% of women and girls of reproductive age, but in the US, for example, only two out 10 cases are diagnosed, with diagnosis taking more than seven years.

American filmmaker, lawyer and activist Shannon Cohn recently directed the documentary Below the Belt to shine a light on the condition – and spoke to the Forum’s Radio Davos podcast about her own experience.

Cohn had her first painful symptoms of the condition when she was just 16, but then there was a “yawning 13-year gap of not being believed actually by healthcare providers, being told my symptoms were in my head or part of being a woman, or I was exaggerating”.

3. Autism 

Around three times as many boys are diagnosed with autism as girls, and girls are often diagnosed later than boys, or not diagnosed at all, which can lead to mental health problems in adulthood, according to research.

Medical gender bias contributes to this underdiagnosis in women, because girls often don’t present with the same behaviours and symptoms as boys – and they learn to “mask” those that don’t fit with social norms.

“Because females often mask and defy stereotypically autistic presentations, individuals and families must endlessly educate others and advocate for themselves or their children to receive the treatments, supports and accommodations they deserve,” says clinical psychologist, Karen Saporito.

The study said the gap between women and men in terms of diagnosis is closing: “While males remain more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females, the disparity has decreased over the past 12 years.

“The ratio of males to females diagnosed with ADHD decreased nearly five-fold during that time, from males being 133% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females in 2010 to 28% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD in 2022.”

4. Autoimmune conditions


Autoimmune diseases are those that stimulate the body’s immune defences to attack itself and include lupus, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid diseases.

After cancer and heart disease, they are the third most prevalent disease category.

Women account for the majority of people (80%) with autoimmune diseases, but it takes an average of five years for them to get a diagnosis,

Scientists at Stanford University have discovered evidence for a molecule – Xist – that exists only in women. It triggers a chemical response that is a hallmark of autoimmune disease and could explain why these conditions are more prevalent in women.

Although potential treatments could be a long way off, Jeffrey Sparks, an associate physician and director of immuno-oncology and autoimmunity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who was not involved in the study, says, “Once you understand the fundamental mechanisms, you could think about developing therapies, early detection and preventions.”

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