Being a Woman Shouldn’t Be a Risk Factor
Despite tremendous improvement in CPR and first responder defibrillation, survival rates for women have not improved significantly.
A 2017 study* found that only 39% of women in cardiac arrest received CPR from strangers in public, compared with 45% of men, and that men's odds of surviving were 23% higher than women's.
A number of factors might explain these worse outcomes. Women who have a cardiac arrest tend to be older than men and live at home alone, with a lower chance of CPR being performed. Also, women are more likely than men to have diseases of the heart muscle known as cardiomyopathy, which can lead to heart rhythms that can’t be treated with defibrillation.
Women Receive Bystander CPR at a Lower Rate Than Men
Research shows bystanders are less likely to perform CPR on women than men. Experts say superficial anatomical differences may lead people to assume chest compressions must be performed differently on men and women, which is not true.
Bystanders may hesitate to perform CPR on a woman because of:
- Fear of potentially inappropriate touching or exposure
- Fear of being accused of sexual assault
- Fear of causing physical injury
- Poor recognition of women in cardiac arrest — specifically a perception that women are less likely to have heart problems, or may be overdramatizing or “faking” an incident
- The misconception that breasts make CPR more challenging
People may fear hurting a woman or ending up in a lawsuit based on those reasons. But the chances of injury from CPR are generally low, and legal action is unlikely because variations of Good Samaritan laws offer some protection in all 50 states.
How the AHA and Go Red for Women Are Closing Gaps in Bystander CPR
Go Red for Women is committed to closing the gender gap in bystander CPR and ensuring women receive CPR when they need it.
In fact, new science-based guidelines from the American Heart Association specifically highlight the gaps in women and communities of color receiving bystander CPR.
The guidelines recommend “bystander CPR training should target specific socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic communities who have historically exhibited lower rates of bystander CPR. CPR training should address gender-related barriers to improve rates of bystander CPR performed on women.”
Learn CPR and Be Ready to Save a Life
By learning CPR, you can be ready to save a life. Learn Hands-Only CPR in 60 seconds or less or sign up for a local CPR training.