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Girls & Women

Women Are Less Likely to Receive CPR from Bystanders Than Men

We all know that gender disparity can have a dramatic effect on a woman’s quality of life — how much she earns, what jobs she’s offered, how much of the burden of child-rearing falls to her.

But it turns out gender disparity can also affect whether a woman lives, and whether or not other individuals attempt to save her life.

New research funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association found that bystanders are less likely to give a woman CPR than a man.

Take Action: Let’s Consider Our Own Biases as We Build a World Where Everyone Sees Equal #WeSeeEqual

The study showed specifically that when an individual goes into cardiac arrest in a public place, other individuals are more likely to try resuscitating them if they are male than female.

The researchers looked at 20,000 instances of cardiac arrest from medical records, and found that 45% of men who went into cardiac arrest in a public place received CPR from a bystander, but only 39% of women did, according to Mic.

The choice to give CPR may not be consciously based on gender. Audrey Blewer, the lead author of the study, pointed out that most of the dummies used in CPR training classes are of male torsos, not female ones, and so bystanders may feel they don’t know how to perform resuscitation on a woman’s chest.

"It can be kind of daunting thinking about pushing hard and fast on the center of a woman's chest" and some people may fear they are hurting her, Blewer told the Associated Press.

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Dr. Benjamin Abella, another author of the study, said bystanders may feel uncomfortable touching a woman’s breasts and so shy away from trying to perform CPR, even though it’s unnecessary to touch someone’s breasts.

“You put your hands on the sternum, which is the middle of the chest. In theory, you’re touching in between the breasts,” Abella told the AP. “This is not a time to be squeamish because it’s a life-and-death situation.”

Cardiac arrest — otherwise known as a heart attack — affects more than 350,000 Americans every year, about 90% of whom die, according to the AP. CPR can double or triple the chances of survival, according to the report.

Global Citizen campaigns to end gender discrimination and improve access to healthcare for all. You can join us and take action here.