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Monday, December 10, 2012

Misdiagnoses Because of Health Samples

Right now I am taking a psychology of women class and we just discussed a chapter on physical and mental health issues for women. We discussed how research around 1995 used white male samples to generalize statistics to women and people of color. 

This was a problem all over the board and it even extended to issues as serious as heart disease. There has been a large tendency in the research community to use the white male as the norm, and as discussed in my class, this approach to research was based on the “complications” associated with including women in the studies because of their monthly hormone variations. 

One example of this that we discussed would be the symptoms of a heart attack: women and men have completely different symptoms. Men will feel chest pain and feel as if their left arm has gone numb, whereas women will get bad back pain and feel nauseous. 

However doctors, who were mostly male at the time, would commonly misdiagnose women who came in with these pains and feelings of sickness as histrionic or having the symptoms all in their heads, because of the sexist views that they had toward them. This misdiagnosis led to many women dying from heart attacks that could have been prevented. 

It is therefore important for doctors and researchers to include not only white men, but women and people of color in their studies in order to obtain the correct data for each group of people and perform correct diagnoses.

- Written by Michelle Anderson

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