There are many health challenges that are gender specific to women. And it doesn’t matter where in the world you look, the struggles that women face when it comes to our health is astounding. Although women have made significant advances in career options, earning potential, politics and so much more, women are still at a steep disadvantage as far as health is concerned.
Just like a heart attack will usually present itself with different symptoms in a female than it will in a male, you will see that different ailments tend to affect females at a higher rate than males. You will also note that there are some things that only apply to women. When you couple this with the fact that much of the medical science and research available has been done by men or is often tested more extensively on men than women, it is easy to see how deeply rooted these disparities are. To help counteract this male-centred way of thinking and processing, here is our list of women’s health issues that are plaguing populations worldwide.
1. Mental Health
This one just may be the most overlooked health-related issues that women face. One reason is that being mentally unwell is “invisible.” Another reason for the overlooking of mental health is that women’s mental health is often swept under the rug as a woman being a woman, hysterical and dramatic. This approach to depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other issues only causes the condition to worsen and take a large toll on women and their families.
When discussing cancer in women, breast cancer is likely to be the first to come up, but breast cancer is just as devastating as ovarian cancer, leukaemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, lung cancer and the rest. It is a scary diagnosis to receive. Cancer is one of the top three killers worldwide. Although there are many different forms of cancer, women are the only ones to suffer from uterine, ovarian, fallopian, endometrial and cervical cancer. Although men also have breast tissue, ladies make up the bulk of breast cancer diagnoses. Lung cancer and skin cancer are also quite prevalent in women.
3. Heart Disease
Cardiovascular disease, more commonly known as heart disease, is the number one killer in the world. Many people think of heart disease as a man’s disease, but a staggering number of women fall victim to it every year. In fact, as women age, their risk of dying from heart disease increases. Heart disease can lead to heart attack and stroke. The World Heart Federation cites a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association that shows that women are three times as likely to die from a heart attack because they receive inadequate treatment. Women’s heart issues often go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed. Sadly, ladies are dying because they are not receiving treatments that are proven to save a life after suffering a heart attack.
4. Pregnancy and Childbirth
It is true that women have been birthing babies for time immemorial, but unfortunately, over 800 women lose their lives during pregnancy or childbirth each day across the globe. Although the majority of these deaths occur in the developing world, maternal mortality rates in some developed countries are equally as concerning. And if you break these numbers down according to race or socioeconomic class things become even more disconcerting. According to the World Health Organization, those living in rural or poor areas, young adolescent mothers are at the highest risk of dying during pregnancy or childbirth.
5. Abortion and Contraception
Every year, tens of thousands of women die from improperly performed abortion procedures. This is because far too often, having an abortion is either difficult to obtain or illegal. When women decide to abort a pregnancy on their own, so many things can go wrong. When effective contraception isn’t available or finances, distance or health will not permit a woman to travel to a reputable place to have the procedure done, trouble can arise. Regardless of where you stand on the abortion debate, the fact remains that access to contraception and abortion services are putting many lives at risk.
6. STDs, HIV, and AIDS
Sexually transmitted diseases and infections are a problem all over the world for both sexes. But some STIs are plaguing women at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, STIs tend to affect women more harshly than men. Often the result is infertility or other recurring health issues when these infections and diseases go untreated.
Not only do STDs negatively affect the women who contract them, but they can also affect the next generation. Children born to women with an STD are at higher risk of death, illness, blindness and other unfavorable outcomes.
Violence against women is a global problem. Whether it is domestic violence, sexual violence or random violence, it is an ever-present concern of most women in just about every corner of the world. The effects of violence against women don’t end with the even. Many women emerge on the other side with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Patriarchal societies tend to view a woman as less than a man or incapable of autonomy. Some cultures condone the “correction” of women by what many would consider being physical abuse. In many societies and cultures, women do not have the right to their own bodies and their husband or another man is permitted to use them sexually whenever he sees appropriate.
8. Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases affect women at an alarmingly disproportionate rate. Well over half of the people who suffer from autoimmune diseases are women. For instance, 9 out of 10 lupus diagnoses will be women. Other autoimmune diseases include type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. According to the NIH, autoimmunity is responsible for more than 100 serious chronic illnesses.
Health is something that belongs to all of us, and women unfortunately often get the short end of the stick. Improving the health of women overall will make a noticeable positive impact on our world. The men will benefit, more children will thrive and women will be better equipped to take on all the many roles that women must assume.