Women are less likely to survive a cardiac arrest. Studies show that women are far less likely to survive outside of a hospital environment… but why is this?

Estimated reading time 4 minutes

Dr Hanno Tan, from the University of Amsterdam, analysed the data from all resuscitation attempts made by the emergency services between 2006 and 2012. In particular, he focused on Cardiac Arrests.

Throughout this period, he noticed that out of the 5,717 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, that only 68% of women would receive an attempt from a bystander. What is interesting is that this is 5% lower than those who would attempt to resuscitate a man.

Why Are Women Less Likely To Survive A Heart Attack?

It has been stated on numerous occasions that women are less likely to receive resuscitation due to them having breasts. For some, applying CPR techniques may add additional pressure and even a fear of a ‘backlash’ post recovery- even in a life or death situation (read our mythbuster blog all about that here). But this research goes far deeper than that.  The statistics worsen when we compare them to the hospital discharge rates. There were 20% of men who survived, which is far greater than the 12.5% of women who went home post treatment.

“Given the short window available to save the life of the patient, every minute in this early phase counts. Help, if only a call to the emergency number by a lay person, is crucial.” Dr Tan pleads.

Heart Attacks in Women Are Harder To Identify

Another suspicion for the difference is that women display different symptoms of a heart attack which may quickly lead to a Cardiac Arrest. Men will often have the stereotypical chest pain, which we expect. This will lead to us spotting a heart problem sooner, and the casualty already being in the care of healthcare professionals (or them already on the way) if it does lead to cardiac arrest. Yet for women, the vital early signs may present themselves as:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fainting
  • And neck/jaw pain

If you suspect someone is having a heart attack and they are displaying these symptoms, call for an ambulance immediately and prepare to use your emergency plan.

Whether male or female, we need to re-train ourselves to identify a heart attack in the same way for a female as we would a male. By doing this, we will optimise their chance of survival.

Sarah Askew from British Heart Foundation reflects on the statistics:

“Regardless of gender, the overall survival rate for an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is shockingly less than one in ten. Every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation reduces the chance of survival by up to 10%, which is why knowing how to perform CPR is essential and doing something is always better than doing nothing.”

Want to increase the chances of being able to assist someone in this situation? Click here to read more on the first aid courses we offer. We have already turned over 100,000 ordinary people into superheroes on standby!

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Jessica Clarke-Wheatley

Jessica Clarke-Wheatley

Jessica is the Brand and Communications Officer nationally for SkillBase First Aid. She loves sharing stories about how SkillBase First Aid turns people in 'Standby-Superheroes'.

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