A ‘gender health gap’ persists in the UK, with analysis finding that women are less likely than men to receive ‘proper’ health monitoring and treatment.
Medical negligence solicitors Bolt Burdon Kemp analysed a variety of metrics from publicly-available health data from the NHS and the Office for National Statistics among others to determine the extent to which women suffer a disadvantage.
It found that although fewer women than men get cancer, the cancer mortality rate has not improved for women at the same rate as it has for men. From 2009 to 2019, the rate of cancer death was 12.5% less for men while women only saw a decrease of 9.3%.
Women also struggle more than men to receive the advice they need from a medical professional about a reproductive health issue. Bolt Burdon Kemp’s survey of 2,000 people in the UK found that women are more likely than men to go back to the doctor once or twice for a reproductive issue because it wasn’t resolved in the first visit (34% of women, 24% of men), as well as being more likely to stop seeking treatment because their issue remained unresolved (22% women, 18% men).
There is also a significant difference in the rate of common mental health issues diagnosed among men and women. Analysis of data from the Women’s Mental Health Taskforce report showed nearly 19% of women have a common mental health condition such as depression or anxiety compared to 12% of men. The difference is even starker for young people, as 26% of young women have a common mental issue versus 9.1% of young men.
Bolt Burdon Kemp created a ranking system, taking into account 17 health metrics as well as life expectancy, in order to calculate the “gender health gap”.
Out of a possible overall score of 170, men scored 110 while women scored 60. This is despite life expectancy at birth being 83.1 years for women and 79.4 years for men.
Hannah Travis, an associate in the medical negligence team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said it was alarming that women “are clearly facing significantly reduced quality of healthcare compared to men”.
“Mistakes made in women’s healthcare could be disastrous. This survey uncovers that women are more likely than men to stop seeking medical treatment even if their issues have not been resolved. Getting adequate, in-depth care from doctors that leaves women feeling reassured is paramount to women’s health and wellbeing,” she said.
In its response to the government’s women’s health strategy consultation, the law firm said it was important to “place women’s voices at the centre of their healthcare”.
“They do not feel listened to, with sometimes devastating outcomes as a result. We highlighted that better training and education within the medical profession would result in better outcomes for women, with earlier diagnoses,” said Travis.
“We hope that the enquiry results are being heard loud and clear and definitive action being taken. More will need to be invested in women’s health before these worrying statistics improve.”