Popular Science

She had a textbook medical condition, but it went undiagnosed for more than a year

How stereotyping diseases hurts patients.

woman in bed with pills

Women often have very different experiences in healthcare than men.

The myth that “younger women don’t get heart disease” points to the danger of what Dr. Katarina Hamberg of Sweden’s Umeå University has called a “knowledge-mediated bias.” While an awareness that men or women have, on average, greater or lesser risks of certain diseases is important and useful up to a point, this awareness can lead to diseases becoming so stereotyped as a “man’s disease” or a “woman’s disease” that doctors are blinded to the individual in front of them—to the extent that the stereotype actually becomes self-fulfilling: knowing a condition is more common in one gender tends to result in its under diagnosis in the other gender.

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