Science

Gender roles are more important than biological sex when predicting heart health

Stereotypical femininity kills

By Emma Boyle February 3, 2016

The physiological and biological differences between men and women have often been studied in order to determine how our biological sex has an impact on our physical health, but a recent study called Sex Versus Gender-Related Characteristics by a team of scientists at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre suggests that gender roles, not sex, are more important when it comes to determining the risk of recurrent heart problems in adults.

According to the study’s lead author Dr Louise Pilote, results found that “adults with role and personality traits traditionally ascribed to women have an increased risk of recurrence of premature acute coronary syndrome (ACS) or major adverse cardiac events within 12 months following their first incident, regardless of their biological sex.”

The study involved over 1000 participants aged 18 to 55 from across Canada, who had been hospitalised for ACS between January 2009 and April 2013. The subjects were asked to complete an extensive questionnaire which addressed various aspects of, and activities in, their daily lives which have been traditionally ascribed to men and women in society, such as the number of hours they spend doing chores, or taking care of children, or their salary. Having participants identify their own gender through answering a wide range of questions is an interesting and no doubt effective method of research, giving real insight into their lives beyond how they see themselves in relation to their biological sex.

The researchers then placed responses within a gender index they had created. The index ranged from 1 to 100 points, with 1 point indicating a high level of traditionally male characteristics and 100 a high level of those traditionally ascribed to women. From this they were able to observe that “participants with a very high score of traditional feminine characteristics, regardless of whether they were biologically a man or a woman, were more likely to have a second cardiac event.”

The relation between cause and effect is no doubt complex but Pilote observed that the results had much to do with the increased anxiety that arises from performing and balancing female gender roles like housework, childcare, and finances alongside work. Pilote hopes that the results from this study will lead to further consideration of gender as well as biological sex when it comes to analysing the differences between men and women in illness.

That’s right, folks, being a woman is bad for your health. It probably has something to do with the stress from the ludicrous beauty standards, the pay gap, and the general misogyny that influence our day to day lives as well as the dreaded female gender roles. Probably.


Via McGill University Health Centre
Main Image © iStock/RapidEye

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