Study Finds Hospitalized Women Have A Better Chance At Survival If Their Doctor Is Female

It's been a problem since the beginning of modern medicine.

woman sitting on hospital bed looking out window PR Image Factory / Shutterstock

Gender inequality is very real. It’s easily seen in the wage gap, different treatment in professional settings, and more. However, we don’t often think about how gender disparity could affect our mortality.

One study found that it does affect that, to the point that a female’s chance of survival is better if she has a female doctor.

If a woman is hospitalized, she has a better chance of surviving if her doctor is also female.

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine was conducted to determine the effect of gender on patient hospitalization and mortality. The findings were concerning.


Researchers found, “Both female and male patients had a lower patient mortality when treated by female physicians; however, the benefit of receiving care from female physicians was larger for female patients than for male patients.” 

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The difference between female and male physician mortality rates seems small but is significant. Female physicians had a mortality rate of 8.15%, while male physicians had a mortality rate of 8.38%.

NBC News reported, “Although the difference between the two groups seems small, the researchers say erasing the gap could save 5,000 women’s lives each year.”

The study concluded, “The findings indicate that patients have lower mortality and readmission rates when treated by female physicians, and the benefit of receiving treatments from female physicians is larger for female patients than for male patients.”

According to NBC, “Other studies suggest that women are less likely to experience ‘miscommunication, misunderstanding and bias’ when treated by female doctors, said lead study author Dr. Atsushi Miyawaki, a senior assistant professor of health services research at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Medicine.”


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Women have struggled with healthcare equality for centuries.

Although it may be surprising to learn that women are more likely to pass away after being treated by a male doctor when hospitalized, it does make sense. Women have struggled with being taken seriously by doctors for most of history.

Northwell Health gynecologist Dr. Stephanie Trentacoste McNally stated, “It’s no accident that the word ‘hysteria’ originates from the Greek word for ‘uterus.’ There’s still this pervasive belief in the medical community that anytime a woman complains about her health, it’s either related to her hormones or all in her head.”

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Furthermore, a JAMA Surgery study found that negative outcomes after surgery were more likely to occur when there was a difference in gender between the patient and physician. “This is driven by worse outcomes among female patients treated by male surgeons,” the study said.

Women have a long history of not being taken seriously in multiple areas of life, including healthcare. While men are trusted to know when something is wrong with their bodies and accurately describe their symptoms, women are believed to be too emotional to properly explain what is going on. And, if they do have symptoms, it’s simply a mental issue.

The dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish Jha, spoke to NBC News. Dr. Jha said, “There’s lots of variation between women and men physicians … [Women] tend to be better at communication, listening to patients, speaking openly. Patients report that communication is better. You put these things together, and you can understand why there are small but important differences.”

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Because women struggle to be taken seriously in medical settings, serious illnesses and diseases can often be overlooked or ignored. In worst-case scenario situations, this could lead to death for some patients.

By working with a female physician who is more willing to listen and take complaints seriously, female patients can ensure that they are properly taken care of.

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Mary-Faith Martinez is a writer for YourTango who covers entertainment, news, and human interest topics.