According to the World Health Organization (WHO), women live longer than men, with life expectancies of 74.2 years and 69.8 years respectively. However, they also report that women are more susceptible to health issues when compared to men of the same age.
Not only are their conditions linked exclusively to female organs, but even conditions that can occur in both genders can disproportionately affect women more than men. They are more likely to use health services and face bigger disabilities. Symptoms of conditions that may present in both genders may be different and more severe in women, which means that they may need to be treated using different methods.
For instance, women are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Plus, osteoarthritis and sexually transmitted diseases are more severe in women, and they are more likely to die after a heart attack.
Here are some of the most common ailments that affect women more than men.
Breast cancer is a condition that is pretty well-known, but there is a common misconception that it only affects women. However, as the National Breast Cancer Foundation points out, “All people, whether male or female, are born with some breast cells and tissue.”
However, it is true that women are far more likely to deal with breast cancer than women. In fact, less than 1% of all diagnosed breast cancer patients are male, while statistics reveal that 1 in 8 American women will be diagnosed with some type of breast cancer during their lifetime.
According to the NHS, Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones and makes them more brittle, possibly leading to breakage. The National Osteoporosis Foundation says that while 10 million Americans have been diagnosed with the condition, 80% of them are women. Simply being a woman puts you at risk, they say!
Women have less bone mass than their male counterparts, which could be one of the major reasons why they are more susceptible to it. It is also more likely to affect older women due to a drop in estrogen after menopause, as estrogen is a hormone that is essential to bone health.
Depression and Anxiety
Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety may be more likely to affect women when compared to men. According to a large-scale study in 2017, women were twice as likely to experience depression, beginning at the age of 12.
This could be attributed to a number of factors, both physical and psychological. As women go through life, they constantly face periods of hormonal fluctuation related to menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and more. Hormones have been scientifically proven to be a major factor in determining a person’s mood, which is why women are more susceptible to depression and anxiety.
On the psychological front, women are more likely to face stressful events in their life, and their coping style tends to be more “ruminative” than men. As girls are often raised to be more emotional and sympathetic than their male counterparts, this could also play a role in higher rates of depression than men. Furthermore, societal factors related to gender discrimination also do not help in this matter.
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune response that targets the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system). As a result, there could debilitating health effects such as muscle stiffness, spasms, paralysis, epilepsy, depression, sexual dysfunction, and issues regarding the bladder and bowel system.
MS could be caused by a number of different factors from age and family history to even race and climate. Women are also 2-3 times more likely to have relapsing-remitting MS, according to the Mayo Clinic. This is likely because of a difference in the brains of the two genders as females have a higher percentage of a protein called S1PR2 that makes them more susceptible to the disease.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can lead to some serious health impacts due to inflammation. It occurs when your body’s immune system, which is meant to keep out and fight foreign bodies, ends up attacking its own tissues and organs. This could lead to problems in the skin, joints, kidney, blood cells, lungs, heart, and brain.
Although lupus is fairly well known, most people do not realize that women are far more likely to be diagnosed with it than men. In fact, Huffington Post reports that 9 out of 10 people affected by this autoimmune disease are women.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases or STIs are common among both men and women who engage in unprotected intimate contact, but women are at a higher overall risk of contacting them when compared to men. Even when considering people of both genders who have been infected, women are more likely to present symptoms and require treatment.
According to WomensHealth.gov, untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea are particularly dangerous in women, possibly leading to chronic pelvic pain, pregnancy complications, and even infertility. Furthermore, undiagnosed syphilis in pregnant women can lead to infant death, occurring in about 40% of the cases.
One of the only known conditions to affect females alone is Turner Syndrome, which is a genetic disorder that occurs in 1 out of 2500 girls. This syndrome occurs when a girl child is born with a missing X chromosome (females have XX chromosomes and males have XY chromosomes).
As a result, the child can face lifelong disabilities such as stunted growth, abnormal bone development, absence of menstruation, drooping eyelids, and more. Furthermore, this could lead to other non-gender-specific conditions such as kidney disease, heart problems, hypertension, diabetes, impaired vision, or thyroid imbalances.
Thankfully, with the advancement of medical technology, it has become a lot easier to treat and manage a lot of these disabilities. And early diagnoses can help prevent issues such as stunted growth.
Rett Syndrome is another disorder that disproportionately affects females. It is a condition that hinders the brain development in a girl child, caused by a genetic mutation that occurs randomly in a gene called MECP2. While it also affects boy babies, it is much rarer.
Since Rett’s Syndrome is caused by a misbalance in the chromosomes, some babies do not even make it to birth or only live for a few days. Others may appear to develop normally until the age of 18 months, post which they may begin to lose skills such as crawling, walking, talking, and the use of their hands. As time goes on, they may develop muscle problems, intellectual disabilities, and seizures. Children with Rett’s Syndrome often have involuntary, strange, and repetitive hand and eye movements.
Celiac disease is characterized as an intolerance to gluten from wheat products – and it has become more well-known in recent times. However, most people do not know that women are twice or thrice more likely to be diagnosed with this disorder than men.
What’s worse is that while it is a lifelong disease, most patients are not diagnosed until the age of 40 or older. Undiagnosed celiac disease could also cause fertility issues in women.