A population-wide study by Westergaard that was published in Nature Communications in February 2019 reveals that women receive their diagnosis later than men for a majority of diseases.
Gender bias in disease diagnosis
The study highlighted that women received a diagnosis 4.5 years later than men for metabolic diseases such as diabetes. Researchers focused on multiple areas of therapy and patient care to illustrate the fact that the ‘one size fits all’ model can no longer be applied.
For 770 disease types, there is an overall four-year gap in diagnosis between women and men.
In addition, a further disparity in diagnosis rates was seen for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Women received an ADHD diagnosis at age 20 years compared to age 14 years for men. The study aimed to show the need for physicians to change standardised methods of treatment in both genders and to adopt a more personalised form of medicine.
Where there is equal and uniform access to healthcare, there are still differences between the diagnosis of diseases affecting men and women.
In research practices, more biomedical research is carried out in male cells. As such, the ability to find novel therapies in both men and women is limited.
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Upcoming therapy research conducted in areas from laboratories to hospitals needs to focus on the influences that sex might have on outcomes.
In addition, medical institutions and healthcare training must highlight biological sex differences and diagnosis inequality so that healthcare staff can recognise any unconscious biases and work to provide equal access to healthcare regardless of gender.