Bystanders are less likely to give life-saving CPR to women having a cardiac arrest in public than men, potentially leading to more women dying from the common health emergency, according to a study.
The research, presented at the European Emergency Medicine Congress in Spain, also shows that in private locations older people, especially older men, are less likely to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
CPR combines mouth-to-mouth breathing and chest compressions to pump blood to the brain of people whose hearts have stopped beating, potentially staving off death until medical help arrives.
The researchers urged people to learn how to perform CPR and to give it without hesitation to anyone who needs it, regardless of gender, age or location.
"In an emergency when someone is unconscious and not breathing properly, in addition to calling an ambulance, bystanders should give CPR. This will give the patient a much better chance of survival and recovery," said Alexis Cournoyer, an emergency medicine physician at the Hopital du Sacre-Coeur de Montreal, Canada.
"We carried out this study to try to uncover factors that might discourage people from delivering CPR, including any factors that might deter people from giving CPR to a woman," added Sylvie Cossette, a Ph.D. nurse researcher at the Montreal Heart Institute research center, Canada.
The yet-to-be peer-reviewed study used data from records of cardiac arrests that happened outside of hospital in Canada and the US between 2005 and 2015, including a total of 39,391 patients with an average age of 67.
They looked at whether or not a bystander performed CPR, where the emergency took place, and the age and gender of the patient.
The team found that only around half of patients received CPR from a bystander (54 per cent). Overall, women were slightly less likely to be given CPR (52 per cent of women compared to 55 per cent of men).
However, when the researchers looked only at cardiac arrests that happened in a public place, such as the street, the difference was greater (61 per cent of women compared to 68 per cent of men).
These lower rates of CPR in public were found in women regardless of their age, according to the researchers.
When they looked at cardiac arrests that happened in a private setting, such as a home, the data indicated that with every ten-year increase in age, men were around 9 per cent less likely to be given CPR during a cardiac arrest.
For women having a cardiac arrest in a private setting the chances of receiving CPR were around 3 per cent lower with every ten-year increase in age.
"Our study shows that women experiencing a cardiac arrest are less likely to get the CPR they need compared to men, especially if the emergency happens in public," Cournoyer said.
"We don't know why this is the case. It could be that people are worried about hurting or touching women, or that they think a woman is less likely to be having a cardiac arrest," the researcher added.
The researchers wondered if this imbalance would be even worse in younger women, because bystanders may worry even more about physical contact without consent, but they found this was not the case.