Women’s life expectancy has doubled, if not tripled, in Western countries during the last decades. As a result, the challenge to benefit from these additional years physically, emotionally and socially, prevails. As a gynaecologist, I aim to make a significant contribution to the health of women and attend to my patients in a holistic sense.
Until recently, health was regarded as gender neutral. The specific needs of women and men were not addressed. Nevertheless, women and men are different. These differences concern organs, hormonal balance, physical rhythm and perception as well as the attitude towards one’s own body.
Men define health as efficiency and absence of disease. Women tend to associate health with well-being and a positive body experience (feeling good in their skin).
At the beginning of the 20th century, women had an average life expectancy of 48 years. Nowadays their life expectancy is about 81 years - about six years more than men’s.
There are several reasons for this; women have a better biological constitution and immune defence, they take better care of themselves and lead a less risky lifestyle.
They behave more cautiously at home, at work and in traffic and they are better at interpreting symptoms and therefore see a doctor quicker. Furthermore, they also take care of the health of family members (filial leave).
Social pressure weighs on women
However, women are at a higher risk of becoming ill because they are under greater social pressure; they are expected to always be attractive, fit and dynamic. In addition, they are more affected by isolation and poverty at old age than men. Moreover, women are exposed to a high physical and psychological burden as a result of their mother role and various multiple stresses. If diseases are to be prevented, all these factors must be taken into account.
Unfortunately, women are still treated differently by male doctors than men. They have to see a doctor twice as often for their symptoms to be taken seriously. Their symptoms are also often interpreted as psychosomatic. For example, doctors diagnose more women with psychological disorders (such as depression). Women are also more likely to receive prescriptions for tranquilizers (sedatives), hypnotics (sleeping pills), analgesics (pain killers) and psychotropic (psychiatric) drugs. These are reasons why many women feel better off with a female doctor.