There’s a strange gender paradox at the heart of cardiovascular disease. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with a heart condition in their lifetime than women, but diagnosed women are less likely to survive. A study out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers a new theory for this disparity: It suggests that men, who account for the majority of doctors, are worse at treating women heart attack patients than their female counterparts.
The researchers looked at the census records of more than half a million patients who visited an emergency room in Florida for a heart attack, spanning from 1991 to 2010. The records not only detailed the patients’ ultimate fates, but also provided the names of their attending doctors, which the researchers used to figure out their gender. To be safe, they excluded any ambiguously named physicians from their analysis.
The baseline rate of someone dying from their heart attack while in the hospital was 11.9 percent. But women who were treated by men were 12 percent more likely to die than the average patient, meaning their absolute chance of dying rose to 13.4 percent. Among patients who survived, women treated by male doctors spent more time in the hospital before being released, further suggesting worse medical care.