Women Are Unaware of Health Differences. (Healthcare/Medical)

Marketing to Women: Addressing Women and Women's Sensibilities, April 2003 | Go to article overview

Women Are Unaware of Health Differences. (Healthcare/Medical)


New research indicates there are a number of differences in how disease and medications affect women and men, according to the Institute of Medicine. Despite a growing awareness of gender-based health differences in the medical community, the message is not getting through to most women, according to a Benenson Strategy Group study for the Society for Women's Health Research and Berlex Laboratories.

Just over half of women (55%) are aware that the typical symptoms of a heart attack are different for women than they are for men. Men's symptoms are most often the chest pain, numbness or tingling in left arm, and shortness of breath depicted in movies and television, while women's symptoms tend to be subtler and harder to identify, such as nausea or vomiting, indigestion, back pain, and jaw pain. Over four in 10 (44%) of women and 37% of women who have been diagnosed with heart disease are unaware of women-specific symptoms.

Of women who know about these symptoms, 47% cite newspapers (25%) or magazines (22%) as the source of their information, while only 17% say they learned about the symptoms from a doctor, and 15% found out from friends or family members.

Another area of low awareness about heart disease is the increased risk of cardiovascular disease after menopause. Post-menopausal women are advised to have a stress test or EKG as part of their annual checkup, yet 56% of post-menopausal women say they've never heard about doing so.

Even among women already diagnosed with heart disease, 41% are unaware of the need for these tests as part of their physical. Women who are aware that they should get these tests say they learned about it primarily from their doctors (44%), magazines (22%), and newspapers (16%).

Women who have high risk factors for stroke (including either being diagnosed with or having family history of heart disease or high blood pressure) are largely unaware that women have a higher risk of stroke than men do, and that women are more likely than men to have a stroke following a heart attack. Three quarters of women who have any of these risk factors say they weren't aware of women's greater risks. Of the 23% who were aware, 31% learned about the risks through newspapers, 21% through magazines, and 16% through friends. Only 13% were told about the risks by a doctor.

Women display even less awareness of the fact that there are gender differences in the effects and side effects of medications. More than eight in 10 women (83%) are unaware of gender differences in medication risks. For the 15% who are aware of such differences, media and doctors play about equal roles in educating them on the risks: 23% each learned about them from doctors or magazines, and 21% from newspapers.

Almost three quarters of women (73%) are unaware of the link between sexually transmitted disease and HIV in women, including 70% of women age 18-34 and 72% of those 35-44 (the groups considered of reproductive age and most likely to contract STDs). And 79% of women (of all ages) aren't aware that there's a link between consuming more than two alcoholic drinks daily and breast cancer in women.

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