Women are less likely than men to be given CPR if they fall unconscious and their heart stops beating in a public place, according to a new study.
Bystanders could be “worried about hurting or touching women” which may prevent them from delivering life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the street or other public locations, academics suggested.
Researchers urged people to learn how to perform CPR and to give it “without hesitation” to anyone who needs it regardless of their gender, age or location.
A team of Canadian researchers set out to examine the assistance given to people when they go into cardiac arrest – when their heart suddenly stops beating.
They analysed data on more than 39,000 cardiac arrests which happened outside of a hospital setting in Canada and the US between 2005 and 2015.
Almost a quarter (23%) occurred in public locations. The patients had an average age of 67 and 29% of the cases were in women.
Only around half of patients (54%) received CPR from a bystander.
Researchers found that in public locations women were 28% less likely to receive CPR compared to men.
In homes and other private places gender did not appear to be linked to whether or not a person received CPR.
But the researchers found that older people were less likely to receive CPR in private locations, according to the study which is being presented to the European Emergency Medicine Congress in Barcelona.
With every 10-year increase in age, men were around 9% less likely to be given CPR during a cardiac arrest. Women were 3% less likely.
Presenting the study, Dr Sylvie Cossette from the Montreal Heart Institute research centre in Canada, said: “We carried out this study to try to uncover factors that might discourage people
from delivering CPR, including any factors that might deter people from giving CPR to a woman.
“We would like to study this issue in greater detail to understand what lies behind the difference. This could help us make sure that anyone who needs CPR gets it, regardless of gender, age or location.”
Co-author, Dr Alexis Cournoyer, from Hopital du Sacre-Coeur de Montreal in Canada, added: “In an emergency when someone is unconscious and not breathing properly, in addition to calling an ambulance, bystanders should give CPR. This will give the patient a much better chance of survival and recovery.
“Our study shows that women experiencing a cardiac arrest are less likely to get the CPR they need compared to men, especially if the emergency happens in public.
“We don’t know why this is the case. It could be that people are worried about hurting or touching women, or that they think a woman is less likely to be having a cardiac arrest.”