Men Are More Likely than Women to Get CPR from a Stranger

Gender disparities also apply to life-saving CPR.
November 17, 2017, 12:02am
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Yet another double standard emerges in favor of men, and this time, it could be costing some women their lives. Men are more likely to receive CPR in public than women, according to preliminary findings presented this week during the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions.

Investigators at the Center for Resuscitation Science at Penn Medicine looked at data on CPR administration in public settings in the US and Canada. They found that, of the 19,331 people who suffered a cardiac arrest in public, 45 percent of men received CPR compared to 39 percent of women. Men were almost twice as likely as women to survive after getting CPR from a bystander, but even among people who didn’t CPR, men were 23 percent more likely to survive than women.

“The key takeaway from these data is that we need to find better and more effective ways to educate the general public on the importance of providing bystander CPR, and the importance of being comfortable delivering it regardless of the factors like the gender, age, or even the weight of the person in need,” said senior study author Benjamin Abella, director of Penn’s Center for Resuscitation Science and a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in a press release.

Cardiac emergencies are more common than you may think. Each year, more than 350,000 Americans suffer from sudden cardiac arrest in a public setting, and only 12 percent of those individuals survive, according to 2016 data from the American Heart Association (AHA). The need for more training among the public on how to handle cardiac events is evident. A June 2011 report showed that 70 percent of Americans feel unprepared to save a life in instances of a cardiac event. The authors of the current study say that only 37 percent of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest in public receive bystander CPR.

There are many factors that contribute to these low rates. Many people fear liability if something goes wrong during CPR, but all 50 states and the District of Columbia follow the Good Samaritan Law, which provides legal immunity to people who administer CPR in “good faith” with hopes of saving a person’s life.

In light of such misperceptions, public health officials are pushing a different message to overcome these hurdles. Audrey Blewer, the study’s first author and assistant director for educational programs at the Center for Resuscitation Science, said, “One of the main reasons people do not perform CPR is fear of harming the victim—we like to state that ‘doing something is better than doing nothing. CPR saves lives!’”

But women may face another barrier to getting CPR in emergency situations. “CPR involves pushing on the chest so that could make people less certain whether they can or should do CPR in public on women,” Blewer said in a news release.

Despite these concerns, performing CPR isn’t something only medical professionals can do. Anyone can learn and perform CPR. The AHA recommends two simple steps for people who see someone suddenly collapse. Call 911 first, then push hard and fast in the center of the person’s chest for 100 to 120 beats per minute until help arrives.

Blewer points out, “Future research is needed to examine the lay bystander and characterize their motivation for performing CPR. Understanding this could help inform public messaging around CPR and future CPR training efforts.”

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