Sexism in Medicine | 5 Surprising Examples

You’d think the healthcare industry would be above sexism and gender discrimination, right? Well, not quite. Even though we try to deny it, sexism in medicine remains a harmful and pervasive problem today. In fact, in a 2014 survey, over 70 percent of women responded that they feel as if doctors treat them differently because of their gender either sometimes, usually, or always. While many people believe that healthcare professionals treat men and women equally, there are quite a few examples that prove the opposite. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the most shocking.

5 Surprising Examples of Sexism in Medicine

sexism in medicine

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1. “Male Depression”

Did you know that has a subsection of depression information for “male depression?” Since males sometimes have different symptoms of depression than females, they’re often treated differently. Society expects men to be less emotional than women, so their depression is often overlooked. Despite the fact that male suicide rates are four times higher than female rates, “male depression” is taken much less seriously.

2. Emergency Room Treatment

In general, medical professionals tend to take women’s suffering less seriously than men’s. A study found that, on average, women wait 16 minutes longer than men in emergency rooms. The same study also found that when women experience acute pain, they’re 25 percent less likely to receive prescription opioids.

3. Pain Treatment

Like we mentioned, women are much less likely to receive prescription pain medication than men. Why? Unfortunately, even today, people generally view women as emotional and melodramatic. As a result, many healthcare workers think that women are exaggerating their symptoms. A National Pain Report survey of over 2,000 women found the following shocking conclusions:

  • 75.1 percent reported a doctor told them, “You’ll have to learn to live with your pain.”
  • 56.9 percent reported a doctor told them, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you.”
  • 51.4 percent reported a doctor told them, “You look good, so you must be feeling better.”

Consequently, women tend to hide their health problems from their doctors because they fear being told that their pain is imaginary or exaggerated.

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4. Men Are Rarely Vaccinated for HPV

We rarely hear about men having HPV. Some people even think that it exclusively occurs in females. However, HPV affects just as many men as it does women. Unfortunately, men are rarely told that they need to be vaccinated for the disease. In fact, less than half of young men in the United States have been immunized against HPV. Women receive regular testing for HPV like Pap smears, but men rarely undergo tests for the disease.

5. Medical Studies Focus on Mainly Male Subjects

Believe it or not, it took a long time for researchers to realize that men and women do not react to medications in the same way. Which is why women were unable to participate in clinical trials until the 1990s. Back in 2014, Northwestern University did research on over 2,300 medical studies. Of the studies that mentioned the sex of the participants, 80 percent used only male subjects.

What Should Doctors Do About Sexism in Medicine?

The first step in combatting sexism in medicine is acknowledging that it actually exists. It’s easy for healthcare professionals to say that they treat men and women equally, but do they actually? In order to achieve equity, doctors must spread awareness of this issue in the medical field, especially when it comes to education and research. Cultural stereotypes can be difficult to overcome, but it’s necessary to break them down in healthcare. Unfortunately, we can’t fix this issue overnight, but it’s never too late to make a change. It’s time to tackle the gender bias in medicine!

What are your thoughts about sexism in medicine? Does your gender ever affect your medical treatment? Let us know in the comments section below.


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