Women diagnosed later than men for hundreds of diseases: Study

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Research has shown women are diagnosed years later than men when it comes to more than 700 diseases. Source: Getty

Diseases impact both men and women of all ages, but a new study has found for many major health issues, women are diagnosed years later than men.

The research, conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen and published in the Nature Communications Journal, used data from the entire Danish population and found across more than 700 diseases, women on average are diagnosed later than men. Researchers also found there were differences in the course of patient care between the two genders.

“The message is that the national strategies that are established need to take a difference into account. We can no longer use the ‘one size fits all’ model,” study author Søren Brunak said in a statement. “We are already heading in that direction with respect to personalised medicine.”

For the study, data from 6.9 million Danish people was analysed. The population was divided into two groups based on their sex and over a 21-year period from 1994 to 2015, researchers analysed the occurrence of all types of diseases, cases where people suffered from more than one disease and courses of patient care.

It was discovered that on average, women were older when they were diagnosed compared to men. In fact, the entire sequence of women’s and men’s patient care course was different and time staggered, according to the results.

In relation to 770 different types of diseases, women were diagnosed later than men, with an average difference of four years. When it came to cancer, women were diagnosed 2.5 years later than men, while metabolic diseases such as diabetes, women were diagnosed around 4.5 years later than men.

One of the few exceptions was osteoporosis, where women were diagnosed ahead of men and before suffering a fracture caused by the disease. Men were typically diagnosed when they presented at the emergency department with a fracture caused by their osteoporosis.

Scientists aren’t yet sure whether the differences in diagnosis are caused by genetics, environment, diagnostic criteria or a mixture of everything, but will investigate it as part of their future research.

“It has been surprising to see that there is such a big difference between the diseases that affect men and women and between their patient care courses in a society where otherwise, we have equal and uniform access to the healthcare system,” study author David Westergaard said. “Now we are trying to map out what really lies behind the differences we see.”

It’s not the first study that has shown a difference between genders when it comes to serious health issues. Earlier this month, Spanish research presented at the Acute Cardiovascular Care congress by the Polish Registry of Acute Coronary Syndromes (PL-ACS) found women call an ambulance for husbands, brothers and fathers with heart attack symptoms, but not themselves.

“Very often women run the house, send children to school, and prepare for family celebrations,” principal investigator Mariusz Gasior said in a statement. “We hear over and over again that these responsibilities delay women from calling an ambulance if they experience symptoms of a heart attack.”

What are your thoughts on the research? Are you surprised there’s such a big difference in diagnosis between men and women?

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