Why Do Women Have More Chronic Illness Than Men?

(You can get the video version of this blog here: https://youtu.be/bOOHW0QzvoQ if you’d prefer).

It seems women statistically suffer more chronic illness than our male counterparts, and that’s before old age comes into the equation! Why is that do you think?

I’m reading ‘The Myth of Being Normal’ by Gabor Mate & here’s some food for thought: We live in a patriarchal society, it is run by men, it’s biased towards men, it disrespects women & expects too much from us. Take a read if you want to know more about why your health is being thrust upon you by society.

Women are much more likely to have fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, autoimmune issues, rheumatoid arthritis, crohn’s disease etc. Women are three times more likely to get rheumatoid arthritis, with lupus it’s nine times more than men. Multiple sclerosis is also a female dominated condition. We are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety & post traumatic stress disorder – PTSD. If a woman smokes she doubles her chances of lung cancer over the men & is much more likely to have Alzheimer’s – this is even higher again in black women.

So Why Are Women So Ill?

Repression of anger in women is a huge issue, the inability to say ‘no’ and to have it respected is an issue too. If we look at the way we’re treated by society as a whole, not just our intimate loved ones we can see why:

  • Sexual Harrassment
  • Workplace Bullying
  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Sexualisation
  • Over Burdening of Responsibilities (seen as female labour such as childcare, caring for ageing parents, in-laws, step-children etc)
  • Boundaries for women seem to be a real issue – that’s with everyone in their lives, including themselves!

The inability for women to say ‘no’, has been engendered in us from childhood. How many times did you personally get in trouble with parents or teachers if you opposed them or questioned what they asked of you? The nuns are notorious for it, their word in the church run schools was law.

How many times have you had a partner you felt unable to say no to, whether in the bedroom, with finances, or just behaviour ‘I’m off down the pub’? For me it was a dominant older brother who had no regard for my boundaries, he’d help himself to my savings from my piggy bank, hide my favourite stuffed toy, borrow my records & CD’s. When I complained to my parents I was given various responses, all of which shut me down and allowed my brother to get away with it; ‘you have to share’ or ‘don’t be a baby’ or ‘I’m sure they meant to ask’. Imagine how it felt to be completely over-ruled, marginalised & unable to create a boundary & have it respected, if it had been my parents things would it have been different? Yes, because when the boot was on the other foot, my father went ballistic!

Women are four times more likely to die when they are unable to express their boundaries and to say no to people. If they have this situation with a boss then they have a much higher rate of heart disease.

Autoimmune Issues

Denying ourselves the ability to express anger, the compulsive self sacrificing & excessive concern for social acceptance are all imprinted in us by our patriarchal society with many women saying they ‘don’t listen to themselves’.

Society

Society has always sexualised women and it’s no better in 2022. We may not have bikini clad models on all our game shows like we did in the 1960’s-1980’s but it’s still there:

  • Movies/TV – Disney always has a helpless female (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel,) who needs to be rescued by the male lead, they are also often dressed in a way that sexualises them; Jasmin, The Little Mermaid etc. Why does Lara Croft need to dress the way she does, Indiana Jones did not have to!!! Women have been used to sell cars, walk the grid at car races & on game shows & sports. These days when you watch TV (Britain’s Got Talent/X-Factor/Strictly) the women are normally dressed in a provocative, sexualised way, whilst the men wear a very sedate suit. On men’s football pundit shows, they wear a suit & tie or a smart shirt & trousers, the female presenters are in spike heels on the pitch & look as though they are about to go clubbing! There are reality shows where the women are portrayed as maneaters (The Villa/Love Island).
  • Social Media – There are social media platforms where women debase themselves for membership (OnlyFans) & reality shows where the women are portrayed as maneaters. 
  • Advertising – We have women taking their clothes off to sell perfumes, jewellery etc.
  • Kids books, comics & cartoons – cartoons such as Horrid Henry – there have been stories where the humour is adult but children copy adults, they learn more than we realise.

We have the #metoo culture which is basically women not being able to say no if they wanted to survive in their industry/career & high profile rape cases where ‘no’ was not seen as really meaning no.

Designated Caregivers

Women are most often put in the role of caregivers, we’re the emotional glue that holds everything together. Interestingly, women have far more health issues around connective tissue – lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, fibro – than men do.

Caring for others such as ageing parents, disabled/sick children, sick partners etc, creates significantly diminished immune function, poorer wound healing, higher levels of respiratory illness & much higher levels of depression, than non-caregivers.

Mother’s Are Shock Absorbers – Emotionally Challenged Children

Mothers who care for children with emotional challenges have higher cortisol indicators, poorer metabolic function, less healthy body fat distribution and age prematurely.

  • Childcare is a major source of stress
  • Largely they internalise their frustration
  • Don’t feel able to ask partners for support or help
  • Mother’s blame themselves for conflict, and are much more likely to use antidepressants than change that.
  • Spouses/partners resentful of their partners attention being on the kids not them, creates more tension & stress, and rows.
  • Relationships end up ‘parenting the toddler partner’.
  • The caregiver mother takes on the angst & anxiety of their partner.

Women are sent covert messages to keep the peace, in childhood this would be mum doing the dishes, dinner, housework etc whilst dad watched TV or went to the pub/gym etc. This dynamic certainly played out in our house in my early childhood, it did change somewhat when I was a bit older but not a huge amount. I’m pretty sure my mum learned to bite her tongue and ‘just get on with it’.

When we add in other factors such as where in the world you live, poverty, & racism this raises the poor health statistics considerably.

So What Is The Solution?

As a coach I see so many clients whose health is being wrecked by these factors, all I can do is help them to change how they behave in their role so they are not suppressing, repressing or internalising their feelings and that they can say ‘no’ with confidence without feeling they have to retract it or be judged unfairly for saying no.

How much of this resonates for you? How much of this is behaviour that you also display? The key is to think about who you want to be, what you want your life to be like & then start the behaviours that will change the situation. 

If there’s not much that resonates or applies to you then great, but look at your loved ones, who is still in that trap & needs help? Be the one to help them change.

If you have health issues & need to change your behaviour, you can join my free group https://www.facebook.com/groups/healyourmindhealyourbodywithtracyfancepsychiccoach

If you’d prefer to work with me 1-2-1 then book your free Discovery Call & we can go from there: https://www.tracyfance.com/get-a-reading-with-tracy/intuitive-life-coaching/

It is our responsibility to change society, men are not going to be our saviours, it is still very much a man’s world, so let’s make it a woman’s world, our health depends on it.

#womenshealth #immunesystem #mansworld #womansworld @gaboramate #themythofnormal

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