Gender & Demographics of U.S. Health Care

Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

Within the U.S. health care system, women and men actually do get different levels of treatment. This isn't so much the fault of the health care system itself as it is the fault of societal expectations of the different genders.

U.S. Health Care

When you look at statistics about the U.S. health care system, you'll notice some very interesting differences between the genders. For example, women's life expectancy is 81 years, compared to 76 years for men. The U.S. health care system refers to the hospitals, clinics, and physicians that take care of the health of the residents of the United States.

So what are some of these other differences, and where do they stem from? Let's take a closer look.

Biological Differences

Okay, so there are definition some biological differences that can explain a few things. Women's high level of estrogen may be protecting them from cardiovascular diseases (occurs more in men) and even Parkinson's disease, which affects men 50% more than women.

Then again, it's thought that the sudden loss of estrogen in women during menopause is the reason 80% of osteoporosis sufferers are women.

Another difference may be found in sex chromosomes. Women's two X chromosomes have more genes than the male's X and Y chromosomes. Even if a female has a gene for a disease, it may be countered by a gene on their second X chromosome, whereas the male has no such protection. In addition, some gene defects that lead to certain disease are linked to the Y chromosome.

Social Acceptance

One factor to consider is the amount of care that men and women receive. According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services, in 2012, females spent $8,315 on health care per capita while men only spent $6,788. Therefore, women spent 23 percent more than the men did on their health care.

This may be because women are more likely to seek medical care than men. One study performed in a low-income urban community showed that 86 percent of the women had health insurance, compared to only 74 percent of men. There is no pressure on women to 'stay strong' or not to rely on help, as there is on men, so they may end up feeling more comfortable going to the doctor.

Depression

Women are more likely to get depression due to hormonal changes and their societal role as caregivers. Women experience more hormonal changes during their child-bearing age as they go through their monthly menses.

As main caregivers of children, aging parents, and sometimes their husbands, it takes a physical (lack of sleep, etc) and emotional toll (no relaxation time) on women that sometimes results in depression.

Because more women seek medical help, these women will get medical treatment for their depression more so than men. And while women are more likely to get depression, men are more likely to commit suicide.

This may stem back to societal pressures that tell men they are not supposed to complain or have mental issues like women do. Even if men do have depression, they are less likely to seek medical help to treat it.

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