Bystanders are less likely to give women CPR in public, a new study suggests.
In research to be presented at the European Emergency Medicine Congress 2023 in Barcelona, Spain, a team of Canadian doctors found that women are less likely than men to receive lifesaving cardiopulmonary resuscitation in public places, which leads to more women dying from cardiac arrest.
CPR involves chess compressions combined with mouth-to-mouth breathing in order to pump blood to the brain when the heart stops beating.
“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,” Dr. Sylvie Cossette, a Ph.D. nurse researcher at the Montreal Heart Institute who presented the research Monday, said in a media release.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death, with about 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests yearly in the US, according to the American Heart Association.
The doctors wanted to understand how bystanders perform CPR differently on men and women, examining records of cardiac arrests in the US and Canada that happened outside of a hospital between 2005 and 2015.
“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,” Cossette added.
The research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, found that out of the 39,391 patients with an average age of 67, 54% said they received CPR from a bystander. And overall, women were slightly less likely to receive CPR at 52% compared to 55%.
However, 61% of women were given CPR by a bystander in a public place, such as in the street, compared to 68% of men. Lower rates of CPR given to women were present regardless of 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,” Dr. Alexis Cournoyer, an emergency medicine physician and researcher at the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal, said.
She continued, “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. We wondered if this imbalance would be even worse in younger women, because bystanders may worry even more about physical contact without consent, but this was not the case.”
Looking at cardiac arrests that occurred in private settings, such as at home, with every 10 years of getting older, men were 9% less likely to receive CPR and women’s chances were 3% lower — showing that older people in general are less likely to receive the life-saving procedure.
The doctors hope to do further research to look at the findings in more detail “to understand what lies behind the difference.”
“This could help us make sure that anyone who needs CPR gets it, regardless of gender, age or location,” Cossette said.