Woman thinking about gender inequality in healthcare and why it matters

Gender Inequality in Healthcare: Why It’s Important for Society

Written on May 6, 2024 by Dr. Kenosha Gleaton. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Let's delve into an important but often overlooked issue: the unequal healthcare experiences between men and women. Beyond annual check-ups, gender disparities affect diagnosis, treatment, and overall health outcomes. In this blog post, we'll explore some revealing statistics that shed light on the challenges women face in the healthcare landscape.

Gender Disparities in Health

Did you know that women spend a significantly larger portion of their lives in poor health and with degrees of disability compared to men? [1] On average, a woman will spend nine years in poor health, impacting her ability to fully participate in various aspects of life, including at home, in the workforce, and in the community. This equates to 25% more time that women spend in “poor health” relative to men. What's more, nearly half of the health burden stems from conditions that affect women disproportionately, such as headaches, autoimmune diseases, and depression. Only 5% are related to women-specific conditions (maternal and gynecological). Almost half of the health burden affects women of working age (20-64 years old), resulting in a reduction in earning potential as well.

Gender Inequality in Healthcare Statistics

Feeling like your concerns aren't being heard by your doctor? You're not alone. Research shows that doctors are more likely to dismiss women’s physical conditions as merely psychological and write off complaints of chronic pain, perpetuating a cycle of misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment. [2] Furthermore, women have historically been underrepresented in clinical trials, even in areas that most impact them, such as cardiovascular disease, psychiatric disorders, and cancer. [3] This disparity is even more pronounced for women of color, who face intersecting forms of discrimination within healthcare systems. [4] These systemic biases not only jeopardize women's health outcomes but also hinder medical advancements by overlooking vital perspectives and experiences.

Women and Health Care Decisions

Despite being primary healthcare decision-makers for their families, many women struggle to prioritize their own health. Women in the US make approximately 80% of the health care decisions for their families, yet often go without health care coverage themselves. [5] This paradox underscores the urgent need to address structural inequities within healthcare systems, ensuring that women receive the same level of care and consideration afforded to their male counterparts.


Gender disparities in healthcare are not just statistics – they're real barriers that impact the lives of women every day. By raising awareness and advocating for change, we can work towards a healthcare system that addresses the unique needs of women and ensures equitable access to quality care. It's time to bridge the gap and create a healthcare landscape where everyone, regardless of gender, receives the respect and support they deserve.


  1. Closing the women’s health gap: A $1 trillion opportunity to improve lives and economies. McKinsey & Company. Accessed May 6, 2024. https://www.mckinsey.com/mhi/our-insights/closing-the-womens-health-gap-a-1-trillion-dollar-opportunity-to-improve-lives-and-economies.
  2. Samulowitz A, Gremyr I, Eriksson E, Hensing G. "Brave Men" and "Emotional Women": A Theory-Guided Literature Review on Gender Bias in Health Care and Gendered Norms towards Patients with Chronic Pain. Pain Res Manag. 2018;2018:6358624. Published 2018 Feb 25. doi:10.1155/2018/6358624
  3. Bierer BE, Meloney LG, Ahmed HR, White SA. Advancing the inclusion of underrepresented women in clinical research. Cell Rep Med. 2022;3(4):100553. Published 2022 Mar 7. doi:10.1016/j.xcrm.2022.100553
  4. Hall WJ, Chapman MV, Lee KM, et al. Implicit Racial/Ethnic Bias Among Health Care Professionals and Its Influence on Health Care Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Am J Public Health. 2015;105(12):e60-e76. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302903
  5. Matoff-Stepp S, Applebaum B, Pooler J, Kavanagh E. Women as health care decision-makers: implications for health care coverage in the United States. J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2014;25(4):1507-1513. doi:10.1353/hpu.2014.0154
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