Why Bystander CPR Rates for Women Remain Low

Several stats agree that women are less likely to receive CPR from bystanders that men; the question is why?

According to a Resuscitation symposium by the American Heart Association’s, these low bystander CPR rates are due to concerns of inappropriate contact or the fear of causing injury even in “virtual” females during training.

Cardiac arrest is the abrupt malfunction of the heart’s electrical system, most times without any previous symptoms.

America records a very high number – 350,000 – of out-of-hospital of cardiac arrests every year. And though the rates of survival are below 12 percent, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation can double or triple a patient’s survival chances.

In the past, studies have indicated that females who suffer cardiac arrest outside medical facilities receive CPR less often than males, said Sarah M. Perman, assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at the Denver-based University of Colorado School of Medicine and primary author on the study.

Bystanders Reveal 5 Reasons They Rarely Perform CPR on women

A recent survey dabbed Poster Presentation 198 by Colorado researchers requested 54 people online to explain, without a word limit, why females may less likely receive CPR when they get suffer cardiac arrests in public.

 Five themes emerged from the list of responses they received:

  • The possibility of inappropriate touching or exposing them; 
  • The fear of sexual assault allegations;
  • The fear of causing physical harm;    
  • Poor identification of females suffering cardiac arrest due to beliefs less that they are less susceptible to heart problems         
  • The idea that breasts make CPR difficult.

“The repercussions of these five major themes is that females will most likely receive no CPR or late execution of CPR,” Perman said.

“And though these are real fears as expressed by the public, it helps to acknowledge that CPR is a lifesaver and should be administered to collapsed persons regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity.”

Men cited the fear of sexual assault accusations or improper touching twice as many times as women, whereas more women said they feared of causing injury.

And while this research was not comprehensive enough to make out definite trends, these fears sure represent a significant challenge in messaging in public health, Perman said.

“Several studies have linked Bystander CPR to increased survival chances and neurologic recovery after out-of-clinic cardiac arrests.

Well executed chest compressions that require the bystander or medic to use their to push hard the chest of the victim– regardless of their gender, the execution of CPR stays the same,” she insisted.

The study featured about 60% male and 85% Caucasian. Around 3 in 10 said they had undergone CPR training.

The analysts have extended this pilot study and have a draft under review giving details of the results of a national sample of public opinion on the same topic. The team of experts also plans to join bystander CPR training sites to fight these fears concerning executing CPR to women, Perman added.

Virtual World Women still get No CPR

A different Philadelphia-based study dabbed Poster Presentation 196 took a unique approach to study bystander response to emergencies based on patient’s sex — using virtual reality.

Real-life cardiac arrest is difficult to study because they occur unexpectedly, according to Marion Leary, lead author and head of innovation research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Unit for Resuscitation Science.

But we can gain more insights on bystander response using VR science and see how to better our CPR training courses.

Leary’s team studied 75 respondents. The grownup volunteers were not told what would happen in the virtual world and were requested to respond as if it were a real-life emergency.

The research’s setting was an engaged metropolis where a footer collapses while another yells for help.

A human model was kept hidden until subjects were in the virtual world. Then the model was placed in real life at the place where the victim would collapse in the virtual environment prompting subjects to conduct CPR and attach an AED in the virtual world while receiving immediate feedback in real life.

The results found that subjects performed CPR or attached an AED on female virtual-reality patients less than on virtual male patients.

However, the study will need to include a larger population to confirm the trend discovered.

Final Words

As for all readers, whether you are CPR trained or not if you see a person collapse, call 911, ask someone to conduct CPR (or do it if you can), and use an AED if there’s one around. In the words of Leary, “taking action is better than doing nothing when you have the power to save a person’s life.”

If possible, install a bystander CPR app on your smartphone so you be the first to know when a life is in danger.