There is no debate: men and women should be treated as equals. But so far, we haven’t completely walked the talk. Until then, social and economic factors are major determinants to the gender differentials in health and wellness.
Furthermore, we cannot likewise negate the fact that men and women are of different genetic makeup, which is also an underlying factor in susceptibility and immunity to various diseases.
Let’s look at some common diseases and how they may affect genders differently.
One of the reasons we study gender in disease is that it may manifest differently in each gender, which will ultimately help diagnose and cure.
Social pressures impose upon men a tough persona. Men have a harder time showing vulnerability than women do. Thus, depression in men can go undiagnosed, where only its symptoms are consulted with a doctor.
Depression and anxiety can manifest themselves as erectile dysfunction (ED). Recent advancements have made ED easily treatable. You can now treat it through the non-invasive procedure of gainswave therapy, coupled with an over-the-counter drug called Viagra.
But for depressed patients, ED is like how a fever is to an underlying infection. Curing the symptom is essential and will improve recovery, but getting to the root of the problem is still necessary.
The fight against breast cancer had led cardiologists to mistakenly ignore the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in women. Studies have found that when women do get diagnosed with CVD, they are often older than the men, and thus are more prone to fatalities.
Gender may also dictate which CVD you are more susceptible to. Research has found that age, hypertension, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol usually affect men, whereas smoking, diabetes, triglyceride, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol levels influence most women.
For example, the studies showed that women who smoke had 50% greater risk of CVD than male smokers. A possible cause being considered is that smoking causes downregulation of vasodilatation of the endothelial wall, a process dependent on estrogen.
For females, there are also women-specific risk factors to consider. Pregnancy puts the female body’s cardiovascular endurance to the test. Most pregnancy-related complications are due to being unable to adapt to these vascular changes.
Women are more prone to Urinary Tract Infections (UTI). However, UTIs are usually more severe in men. Urethra length, which is longer in males, is one of the anatomical differences accounted for the lower disease incidence in the male population.
Sex differences also affect one’s immunity and response to vaccines. Various surveys either report a balanced rate of immunization between males and females, or a lower rate among women. A cited cause is the sex’s inhibitions and doubts against vaccination, which suggests that their higher reports of inflammatory side effects may be driven by bias.
For seasonal TIV, the antibody response was found higher in women, sometimes almost twice that of the men.
In any case, the studies above noted that a more comprehensive study is needed to assess more variables.
Osteoporosis and Fractures
The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) estimated around 9.1 million women have Osteoporosis, while an additional 26 million are riddled with a low bone mass, much higher than the figures for men: 2.8 million for Osteoporosis and 14.4 million for low bone mass. Such statistics have led people to believe that Osteoporosis is a “woman’s disease,” especially in post-menopausal women. But the severity of the disease changes the patterns once again, as men tend to have worse outcomes after fracture than women, and male fatalities due to hip failure are twice as many.
These studies are limited by the lack of data on older men, which needs to be compared to the many studies including post-menopausal women.
Nonetheless, the bigger picture provides the following analysis. Differences in bone mineral density (BMD), bone size, and bone strength contribute to gender differentials in bone diseases. Generally, males have larger skeletal size and bone mass than women. Since female frames are slender and less condensed in the cortical area, this may reduce their overall bone strength compared to men’s.
How Recognizing Differences Could Promote Equality
The World Health Organization (WHO)’s promotion of gender differentials as a health study is motivated by a search for equality. Gender inequality leads to health risks among women. It is only by addressing gender norms that we could better understand the unbalanced power relations and how they affect health outcomes for both sexes. Our approaches would be more targeted by assessing differences, and results would be better for all.