In the European Union women live on average five years longer than men1 but report having lower satisfaction with their health status. The quality of life and wellbeing women experience as they age is not always satisfactory. Chronic diseases are responsible for a large part of illness, disability and mortality in the EU, accounting for 86% of all deaths2. In 2012, the number of years women who lived with a disease accounted for 26% of their entire lifespan3, an issue that needs to be examined and highlighted on International Women’s Day.
Chronic diseases such as asthma can affect women and men in different ways. Alarmingly asthma rates have doubled in the last ten years and disproportionately affect women. Issues including female hormones, modern lifestyles, environmental changes, can impact on the development of asthma. During the last decade it has become apparent from research that many physiological and pathological functions are influenced by sex-based differences in biology which affects patient treatment and care.
According to EIWH Policy Brief, Women and Asthma in the EU, asthma rates increase considerably in women over 40 years old, with nearly six new cases of asthma in women to one new case in men. “Women should be aware that the fluctuation of female hormones may be as responsible for Asthma attacks as other environmental factors, such as household dust, cleaning products, perfumes, hairspray etc., causing inflammation of the airways”4, stated Hildrun Sundseth, President, EIWH.
“Given the higher prevalence of severe asthma in females, we are calling on all partners, from policy makers to doctors, to pay specific attention to gender differences in clinical asthma research. It is crucial that women receive tailored prevention advice and treatment to minimise their asthma symptoms and recover their quality of life”, said Breda Flood, President, European Federation of Asthma and Airways Diseases Associations (EFA).
(1) Eurostat May 2014 life expectancy at birth statistics: http://www.euro.who.int/_data/assets/pdf_file/008/96632/E93736http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Mortality_and_life_expectancy_statistics
(2) European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies Tackling Chronic Disease in Europe: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/96632/E93736.pdf
(3) Eurostat May 2014 healthy life years statistics: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Healthy_life_years_statistics
(4) EIWH, Women and Asthma in the EU Policy Brief: http://eurohealth.ie/policy-brief-women-and-asthma-in-the-eu/