Self-reported use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) varies widely from 10% to 75% in the general populations worldwide. When limited to use of a CAM provider 2% to 49% reported use is found. CAM use is believed to be closely associated with socio demographic variables such as gender, age, education, income and health complaints. However, studies have only occasionally differentiated CAM use according to gender. Therefore, the aim of the study presented here is to describe the prevalence of CAM use on the background of gender and to describe the specific characteristics of male and female users in the total Tromsø 6 population.
A total of 12,982 men and women aged 30–87 in the municipality of Tromsø, Norway went through a health screening program and completed two self-administered questionnaires in 2007/2008. The questionnaires were developed specifically for the Tromsø study and included questions about life style and health issues in addition to socio demographic variables.
A total of 33% of the participants reported use of any CAM within the last 12 months, women more often than men (42% and 24%, respectively). When limited to visits to a CAM provider, we found 17% use among women and 8% among men. The relationship between the demographic variables and being a CAM user differed significantly between men and women with regard to age, household income, and marital status. We did not find significant differences between men and women concerning education and self-reported health.
Findings from this study suggest that the prevalence and associations for use of CAM differ between men and women concerning several socio demographic variables (age, education and household income). Neglect of women’s health care needs in public health care may contribute to the fact that women to a higher degree than men turn to CAM and CAM products.
CAM use; Norway; Gender differences; Population study; Prevalence
Physician gender is associated with differences in the male-to-female ratio between specialities and with preferred working hours. We explored how graduating students’ sex or full-time or part-time preference influences their speciality choice, taking work-life issues into account. Graduating medical students at Radboud University Medical Centre, the Netherlands participated in a survey (2008–2012) on career considerations. Logistic regression tested the influence of sex or working hour preference on speciality choice and whether work-life issues mediate. Of the responding students (N = 1,050, response rate 83, 73.3 % women), men preferred full-time work, whereas women equally opted for part time. More men chose surgery, more women family medicine. A full-time preference was associated with a preference for surgery, internal medicine and neurology, a part-time preference with psychiatry and family medicine. Both male and female students anticipated that foremost the career of women will be negatively influenced by family life. A full-time preference was associated with an expectation of equality in career opportunities or with a less ambitious partner whose career would affect family life. This increased the likelihood of a choice for surgery and reduced the preference for family medicine among female students. Gender specifically plays an important role in female graduates’ speciality choice making, through considerations on career prospects and family responsibilities.
Medical graduates; Speciality choices; Gender; Working hours; Work–life balance
A woman’s nutritional status before conception and during pregnancy is important for maternal health and the health of the foetus. The aim of the study was to compare diet intake in early pregnant women with non-pregnant women.
Between September 2006 and March 2009, 226 women in early pregnancy were consecutively recruited at five antenatal clinics in Northern Sweden. Referent women (n = 211) were randomly selected from a current health screening project running in the same region (the Västerbotten Intervention Program; VIP). We collected diet data with a self-reported validated food frequency questionnaire with 66 food items/food aggregates, and information on portion size, alcohol consumption, and supplement intake. Data were analysed using descriptive, comparative statistics and multivariate partial least square modelling.
Intake of folate and vitamin D from foods was generally low for both groups. Intake of folate and vitamin D supplements was generally high in the pregnant group and led to significantly higher total estimated intake of vitamin D and folate in the pregnant group. Iron intake from foods tended to be lower in pregnant women although iron supplement intake evened out the difference with respect to iron intake from foods only. Energy intake was slightly lower in pregnant women but not significant, a reflection of that they reported consuming significantly less of potatoes/rice/pasta, meat/fish, and vegetables (grams/day) than the women in the referent group.
In the present study, women in early pregnancy reported less intake of vegetables, potatoes, meat, and alcohol than non-pregnant women. As they also had a low intake (below the Nordic Nutritional Recommendations) of folate, vitamin D, and iron from foods, some of these women and their unborn children are possibly at risk for adverse effects on the pregnancy and birth outcome.
Pregnancy; Diet; Nutrition; Cross-sectional
To explore changes in specialty preferences and work-related topics during the theoretical phase of Dutch medical education and the role of gender.
A cohort of medical students at Radboudumc, the Netherlands, was surveyed at start (N=612, 69.1% female) and after three years (N=519, 69.2% female), on specialty preferences, full-time or part-time work, motivational factors, and work-life issues. Chi square tests were performed to analyze gender-differences, and logistic regression to explore the influence of gender on considerations.
A total of 214 female and 78 male students completed both surveys. After three years, the male students remained highly interested in surgery, but the female students increasingly preferred gynecology. These initial preferences were predictive. Four out of five male students versus three out of five female students continued to show a full-time preference. Women increasingly preferred part-time work. After three years, the combination of work, care, and patient contact motivated female students more, whereas salary remained more important to male students. Female students indicated that their future careers would influence their family life; male students assumed having a family would only affect their partners’ careers.
Against an international background of the feminization of medicine, our study shows that career considerations are reinforced early in medical studies. Women prefer to work fewer hours and anticipate care tasks more often. Students’ preferences reflect Dutch cultural norms about working men and women. Therefore, guidance in choice-making much earlier in medical education can create opportunities.
Gender; career; medical education; specialty preference; full-time; part-time; work-life balance
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an established treatment for patients with advanced parkinson’s disease (PD). Research shows that women are under-represented among patients undergoing DBS surgery. This may be due to gender-biased selection of patients, but patients’ wishes and attitudes may also contribute. This study investigated the decision making process to undergo DBS from the patient’s perspective, and explored any gender patterns in the participants’ decision-making.
All patients operated on with DBS for PD at the University Hospital of Northern Sweden between January 2002 and April 2010 were invited to an interview study. In this way 39 patients were recruited, 31 men and eight women. Three additional women, operated elsewhere, were recruited to acheive a more gender-balanced sample. In a mixed-method analysis, the interviews were analysed according to the constant comparison technique in grounded theory and descriptive statistics was used to present demographics and compare categories.
Three different approaches to DBS were identified among the patients. ‘Taking own initiative’, included 48% of the patients and implied that the patients’ own initiatives and arguments had been crucial for having surgery. ‘Agreeing when offered’, and accepting DBS when suggested by doctors embraced 43%. The third approach, ‘Hesitating and waiting’ included < 10% of the patients. Most of the men were either ‘taking own initiative’ or ‘agreeing when offered’. The 11 women were evenly distributed in all three approaches. Among the interviewed, more women than men expressed strong fear of complications and more women consulted friends and relatives prior to deciding about DBS. Half of the patients had held a leadership position at work or in another organisation, and among patients ‘taking own initiative’ the proportion with leadership experiences was 80%. At time for surgery ten men but no woman were professionally active.
This study suggests that many patients with advanced PD have to argue and struggle with their clinicians in order to be referred to a DBS-team. The study further suggests that patients’ wishes, behaviour and position in society may all contribute to the skewed gender distribution among patients treated with DBS.
Parkinson’s disease; Deep brain stimulation; Patients’ perspective; Gender; Equity in health; Interviews
Today, women constitute about half of medical students in several Western societies, yet women physicians are still underrepresented in surgical specialties and clustered in other branches of medicine. Gender segregation in specialty preference has been found already in medical school. It is important to study the career preferences of our future physicians, as they will influence the maintenance of an adequate supply of physicians in all specialties and the future provision of health care. American and British studies dominate the area of gender and medical careers whereas Swedish studies on medical students’ reasons for specialty preference are scarce. The aim of this study is to investigate and compare Swedish male and female medical students’ specialty preferences and the motives behind them.
Between 2006 and 2009, all last-year medical students at Umea University, Sweden (N = 421), were invited to answer a questionnaire about their future career and family plans. They were asked about their specialty preference and how they rated the impact that the motivational factors had for their choice. The response rate was 89% (N = 372); 58% were women (N = 215) and 42% were men (N = 157). Logistic regression was used to evaluate the independent impact of each motivational factor for specialty preference.
On the whole, male and female last-year students opted for similar specialties. Men and women had an almost identical ranking order of the motivational factors. When analyzed separately, male and female students showed both similarities and differences in the motivational factors that were associated with their specialty preference. A majority of the women and a good third of the men intended to work part-time. The motivational factor combining work with family correlated with number of working hours for women, but not for men.
The gender similarities in the medical students’ specialty preferences are striking and contrast with research from other Western countries where male and female students show more differences in career aspirations. These similarities should be seized by the health care system in order to counteract the horizontal gender segregation in the physician workforce of today.
Self-Rated Health (SRH) correlates with risk of illness and death. But how are different questions of SRH to be interpreted? Does it matter whether one asks: “How would you assess your general state of health?”(General SRH) or “How would you assess your general state of health compared to persons of your own age?”(Comparative SRH)? Does the context in a questionnaire affect the answers? The aim of this paper is to examine the meaning of two questions on self-rated health, the statistical distribution of the answers, and whether the context of the question in a questionnaire affects the answers.
Statistical and semantic methodologies were used to analyse the answers of two different SRH questions in a cross-sectional survey, the MONICA-project of northern Sweden.
The answers from 3504 persons were analysed. The statistical distributions of answers differed. The most common answer to the General SRH was “good”, while the most common answer to the Comparative SRH was “similar”. The semantic analysis showed that what is assessed in SRH is not health in a medical and lexical sense but fields of association connected to health, for example health behaviour, functional ability, youth, looks, way of life. The meaning and function of the two questions differ – mainly due to the comparing reference in Comparative SRH. The context in the questionnaire may have affected the statistics.
Health is primarily assessed in terms of its sense-relations (associations) and Comparative SRH and General SRH contain different information on SRH. Comparative SRH is semantically more distinct. The context of the questions in a questionnaire may affect the way self-rated health questions are answered. Comparative SRH should not be eliminated from use in questionnaires. Its usefulness in clinical encounters should be investigated.
To ascertain good and appropriate healthcare for both women and men implementation of gender perspectives in medical education is needed. For a successful implementation, knowledge about students' attitudes and beliefs about men, women, and gender is crucial. The aim of this study was to compare attitudes to gender and gender stereotyping among Dutch and Swedish male and female medical students.
In this cross-sectional study, we measured the attitudes and assumptions about gender among 1096 first year medical students (616 Dutch and 480 Swedish) with the validated Nijmegen Gender Awareness in Medicine Scale (N-GAMS). The response rate was 94% in the Netherlands and 93% in Sweden. Univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to compare the scores between Dutch and Swedish male and female students. Linear regressions were used to analyze the importance of the background variables.
There were significant differences in attitudes to gender between Dutch and Swedish students. The Swedish students expressed less stereotypical thinking about patients and doctors and the Dutch were more sensitive to gender differences. The students' sex mattered for gender stereotyping, with male students in both countries agreeing more with stereotypical statements. Students' age, father's birth country and mother's education level had some impact on the outcome.
There are differences between cultures as well as between men and women in gender awareness that need to be considered when implementing gender in medical education.
This study suggests that to arouse the students' interest in gender issues and make them aware of the significance of gender in medical work, the examples used in discussions need to be relevant and challenging in the context of the specific country. Due to different levels of knowledge and different attitudes within the student population it is important to create a climate for dialogue where students feel permitted to disclose their ideas and attitudes in order to become aware of what these are as well as their possible consequences on interaction and decision-making in medical work.
Medical curricula; medical students; gender implementation; gender; attitudes; stereotypical thinking
Objectives: To investigate future life expectations among male and female medical students in their first and final year.
The study was cross-sectional and conducted at a Swedish medical school. Out of 600 invited students, 507 (85%) answered an open-ended question about their future life, 298 (59%) first-year students and 209 (41%) last-year students. Women constituted 60% of the respondents. A mixed model design was applied; qualitative content analysis was utilized to create statistically comparable themes and categories.
Students’ written answers were coded, categorized and clustered into four themes: “Work”, “Family”, “Leisure” and “Quality of personal life”. Almost all students included aspects of work in their answers. Female students were more detailed than male ones in their family concerns. Almost a third of all students reflected on a future work-life balance, but considerations regarding quality of personal life and leisure were more common among last-year students.
Today’s medical students expect more of life than work, especially those standing on the doorstep of working life. They intend to balance work not only with a family but also with leisure activities. Our results reflect work attitudes that challenge the health care system for more adaptive working conditions. We suggest that discussions about work-life balance should be included in medical curricula.
Medical students; gender; future expectations; physician’s role; work-life balance
During the last decades research has reported unmotivated differences in the treatment of women and men in various areas of clinical and academic medicine. There is an ongoing discussion on how to avoid such gender bias. We developed a three-step-theoretical model to understand how gender bias in medicine can occur and be understood. In this paper we present the model and discuss its usefulness in the efforts to avoid gender bias. In the model gender bias is analysed in relation to assumptions concerning difference/sameness and equity/inequity between women and men. Our model illustrates that gender bias in medicine can arise from assuming sameness and/or equity between women and men when there are genuine differences to consider in biology and disease, as well as in life conditions and experiences. However, gender bias can also arise from assuming differences when there are none, when and if dichotomous stereotypes about women and men are understood as valid. This conceptual thinking can be useful for discussing and avoiding gender bias in clinical work, medical education, career opportunities and documents such as research programs and health care policies. Too meet the various forms of gender bias, different facts and measures are needed. Knowledge about biological differences between women and men will not reduce bias caused by gendered stereotypes or by unawareness of health problems and discrimination associated with gender inequity. Such bias reflects unawareness of gendered attitudes and will not change by facts only. We suggest consciousness-rising activities and continuous reflections on gender attitudes among students, teachers, researchers and decision-makers.
In many diseases men and women, for no apparent medical reason, are not offered the same investigations and treatment in health care. This may be due to staff's stereotypical preconceptions about men and women, i.e., gender bias. In the clinical situation it is difficult to know whether gender differences in management reflect physicians' gender bias or male and female patients' different needs or different ways of expressing their needs. To shed some light on these possibilities this study investigated to what extent it was possible to identify patients' sex when reading their blinded illness narratives, i.e., do male and female patients express themselves differently enough to be recognised as men and women without being categorised on beforehand?
Eighty-one authentic letters about being diseased by cancer were blinded regarding sex and read by 130 students of medicine and psychology. For each letter the participants were asked to give the author's sex and to explain their choice. The success rates were analysed statistically. To illuminate the participants' reasoning the explanations of four letters were analysed qualitatively.
The patient's sex was correctly identified in 62% of the cases, with significantly higher rates in male narratives. There were no differences between male and female participants. In the qualitative analysis the choice of a male writer was explained by: a short letter; formal language; a focus on facts and a lack of emotions. In contrast the reasons for the choice of a woman were: a long letter; vivid language; mention of emotions and interpersonal relationships. Furthermore, the same expressions were interpreted differently depending on whether the participant believed the writer to be male or female.
It was possible to detect gender differences in the blinded illness narratives. The students' explanations for their choice of sex agreed with common gender stereotypes implying that such stereotypes correspond, at least on a group level, to differences in male and female patients' illness descriptions. However, it was also obvious that preconceptions about gender obstructed and biased the interpretations, a finding with implications for the understanding of gender bias in clinical practice.
Gender issues are important to address during medical education, however research about the implementation of gender in medical curricula reports that there are obstacles. The aim of this study was to explore physician teachers' attitudes to gender issues.
As part of a questionnaire, physician teachers at Umeå University in Sweden were given open-ended questions about explanations for and asked to write examples why they found gender important or not. The 1 469 comments from the 243 respondents (78 women, 165 men) were analyzed by way of content analysis. The proportion of comments made by men and women in each category was compared.
We found three themes in our analysis: Understandings of gender, problems connected with gender and approaches to gender. Gender was associated with differences between women and men regarding behaviour and disease, as well as with inequality of life conditions. Problems connected with gender included: delicate situations involving investigations of intimate body parts or sexual attraction, different expectations on male and female physicians and students, and difficulty fully understanding the experience of people of the opposite sex. The three approaches to gender that appeared in the comments were: 1) avoidance, implying that the importance of gender in professional relationships was recognized but minimized by comparing gender with aspects, such as personality and neutrality; 2) simplification, implying that gender related problems were easy to address, or already solved; and 3) awareness, implying that the respondent was interested in gender issues or had some insights in research about gender. Only a few individuals described gender as an area of competence and knowledge. There were comments from men and women in all categories, but there were differences in the relative weight for some categories. For example, recognizing gender inequities was more pronounced in the comments from women and avoidance more common in comments from men.
The surveyed physician teachers gave many examples of gender-related problems in medical work and education, but comments describing gender as an area of competence and knowledge were few. Approaches to gender characterized by avoidance and simplification suggest that faculty development programs on gender need to address and reflect on attitudes as well as knowledge.
During the past few decades, research has reported gender bias in various areas of clinical and academic medicine. To prevent such bias, a gender perspective in medicine has been requested, but difficulties and resistance have been reported from implementation attempts. Our study aimed at analysing this resistance in relation to what is considered good medical research.
We used a theoretical model, based on scientific competition, to understand the structures of scientific medicine and how they might influence the resistance to a gender perspective in medicine. The model was originally introduced to discuss how pluralism improves rationality in the social sciences.
The model provided a way to conceptualise different fields of research in medicine: basic research, applied research, medical philosophy, and 'empowering' research. It clarified how various research approaches within medicine relate to each other, and how they differ and compete. It also indicated why there might be conflicts between them: basic and applied research performed within the biomedical framework have higher status than gender research and other research approaches that are performed within divergent research paradigms.
This hierarchy within medical research contributes to the resistance to a gender perspective, causing gender bias and making medical scientific rationality suboptimal. We recommend that the theoretical model can be applied in a wider medical context when different and hierarchically arranged research traditions are in conflict. In this way, the model might contribute to shape a medical community where scientific pluralism is acknowledged to enlarge, not to disturb, the scientific rationality of medicine.
During the last decades research has disclosed gender differences and gender bias in different fields of academic and clinical medicine. Consequently, a gender perspective has been asked for in medical curricula and medical education. However, in reports about implementation attempts, difficulties and reluctance have been described. Since teachers are key persons when introducing new issues we surveyed physician teachers' attitudes towards the importance of gender in professional relations. We also analyzed if gender of the physician is related to these attitudes.
Questionnaires were sent to all 468 senior physicians (29 % women), at the clinical departments and in family medicine, engaged in educating medical students at a Swedish university. They were asked to rate, on five visual analogue scales, the importance of physician and patient gender in consultation, of physician and student gender in clinical tutoring, and of physician gender in other professional encounters. Differences between women and men were estimated by chi-2 tests and multivariate logistic regression analyses.
The response rate was 65 %. The physicians rated gender more important in consultation than in clinical tutoring. There were significant differences between women and men in all investigated areas also when adjusting for speciality, age, academic degree and years in the profession. A higher proportion of women than men assessed gender as important in professional relationships. Those who assessed very low were all men while both men and women were represented among those with high ratings.
To implement a gender perspective in medical education it is necessary that both male and female teachers participate and embrace gender aspects as important. To facilitate implementation and to convince those who are indifferent, this study indicates that special efforts are needed to motivate men. We suggest that men with an interest in gender issues should be involved in this work. Further research is needed to find out how such male-oriented endeavours should be outlined.
gender attitudes; gender differences; medical education; medical curricula; physicians.
An important goal for medical education today is professional development including gender equality and awareness of gender issues. Are medical teachers prepared for this task? We investigated gender awareness among physician teachers, expressed as their attitudes towards the role of gender in professional relationships, and how it varied with physician gender and specialty. We discuss how this might be related to the gender climate and sex segregation in different specialties.
Questionnaires were sent to all 468 specialists in the clinical departments and in family medicine, who were engaged in educating medical students at a Swedish university. They were asked to rate, on visual analogue scales, the importance of physician and patient gender in consultation, of preceptor and student gender in clinical tutoring and of physician gender in other professional encounters. Differences between family physicians, surgical, and non-surgical hospital doctors, and between women and men were estimated by chi-2 tests and multivariate logistic regression analyses.
The response rate was 65 %. There were differences between specialty groups in all investigated areas mainly due to disparities among men. The odds for a male family physician to assess gender important were three times higher, and for a male non-surgical doctor two times higher when compared to a male surgical doctor. Female teachers assessed gender important to a higher degree than men. Among women there were no significant differences between specialty groups.
There was an interaction between physician teachers' gender and specialty as to whether they identified gender as important in professional relationships. Male physicians, especially from the surgical group, assessed gender important to a significantly lower degree than female physicians. Physicians' degree of gender awareness may, as one of many factors, affect working climate and the distribution of women and men in different specialties. Therefore, to improve working climate and reduce segregation we suggest efforts to increase gender awareness among physicians, for example educational programs where continuous reflections about gender attitudes are encouraged.
In 1998 the Swedish noncommercial public health service Infomedica opened an Ask the Doctor service on its Internet portal. At no charge, anyone with Internet access can use this service to ask questions about personal health-related and disease-related matters.
To study why individuals choose to consult previously-unknown doctors on the Internet.
Between November 1, 2001, and January 31, 2002 a Web survey of the 3622 Ask the Doctor service users, 1036 men (29%) and 2586 (71%) women, was conducted. We excluded 186 queries from users. The results are based on quantitative and qualitative analysis of the answers to the question "Why did you choose to ask a question at Infomedica's 'Ask the Doctor' service?"
1223 surveys were completed (response rate 34%). Of the participants in the survey 322 (26%) were male and 901 (74%) female. As major reasons for choosing to consult previously-unknown doctors on the Internet participants indicated: convenience (52%), anonymity (36%), "doctors too busy" (21%), difficult to find time to visit a doctor (16%), difficulty to get an appointment (13%), feeling uncomfortable when seeing a doctor (9%), and not being able to afford a doctors' visit (3%). Further motives elicited through a qualitative analysis of free-text answers were: seeking a second opinion, discontent with previous doctors and a wish for a primary evaluation of a medical problem, asking embarrassing or sensitive questions, seeking information on behalf of relatives, preferring written communication, and (from responses by expatriates, travelers, and others) living far away from regular health care.
We found that an Internet based Ask the Doctor service is primarily consulted because it is convenient, but it may also be of value for individuals with needs that regular health care services have not been able to meet.
Internet; remote consultation; physician-patient relations; access to information; information services; anonyms and pseudonyms