We know that men and women experience many diseases and disorders differently. Sex differences can be found in the symptoms, severity, prevalence, and age at onset for a variety of conditions. However, a majority of biomedical research is conducted with a preferential bias towards the male sex. Investigators tend to use male cells or animals, neglect to report which sexes were studied, or fail to mention if any sex-differences were identified. These practices limit our understanding of how sex impacts health and disease and hinder the development of therapeutics. 

To raise awareness of this critical issue, we have compiled information and resources that explore how sex and gender influence the entire body, not just the reproductive system. In addition, the Women’s Health Research Institute partnered with Northwestern Medicine to generate video lectures which discuss sex-inclusive science and medicine which can be found below.

We hope to update this list as new research becomes available. Please keep in mind, not all diseases, body systems, or health topics which are of interest to you may be listed here. This does not mean that sex or gender differences do not exist in that area, rather, it is likely that sex of gender differences have yet to be investigated or reported. 

To learn more about how you can help advance sex- and gender-based research click here.


Cardiovascular Disease and the Circulatory System

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women throughout the United States, yet there are profound sex and gender differences in its prevalence, type, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Did you know:

  • Young women with acute coronary syndrome have slower access to care compared to men.
  • Within one year of having a heart attack, women are more likely to return to the ER or be readmitted to the hospital.
  • Women have a higher risk of stroke compared to men of the same age (21% vs. 17%).

Video Lecture: “Cardiovascular Disease: The Case for Sex-based Cardiovascular Medicine,” Presented by Dr. Marla Mendelson

Literature Reviews: “Sex/Gender Differences in Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: What a Difference a Decade Makes,” Mosca et al., Circulation. 2011; 124(19): 2145-2154.
“Sex and the cardiovascular system: the intriguing tale of how women and men regulate cardiovascular function differently,” Huxley, VH. Adv Physiol Educ. 2003; 31(1): 17-22.

WHRI Blog Posts: American Heart Association Journal Dedicates Issues to Women’s Health and Sex-Based Research
Longer ER Wait Times for Women with Heart Attacks

WHRI Newsletters: Cardiovascular Disease in Women 
Venous Thromboembolism 
Women and Atrial Fibrilation   


Dermatology

Did you know:

  • Women have a higher prevalence of skin disorders such as rosacea or scleroderma.
  • Yet, men are more likely to have severe psoriasis compared to women

Video Lecture: “Sex Differences in Skin Disease,” Presented by Dr. Bethanee Schlosser

Literature Reviews: “Mind the Gap: Sex Bias in Basic Skin Research,” Kong et al., J Invest Dermatol. 2016; 136(1): 12–14.
“Gender differences in skin: a review of the literature,” Dao and Kazin, Gend Med. 2007 Dec;4(4):308-28.

WHRI Blog Posts: Alcohol Linked to Psoriasis in Women


Endocrinology

Did you know:

  • All forms of thyroid disease are 3-4 times more common in women.
  • Women with diabetes have a 40% greater risk of developing coronary heart disease compared to men.

Literature Review: "Sex and Gender Differences in Endocrinology," Kautzky-Willer, A. Sex and Gender Aspects in Clinical Medicine. Ed. Oertelt-Prigione & Regitz-Zagrosek, 2012. 

WHRI Blog Posts: Reproductive History May Help Predict Type 2 Diabetes Risk

WHRI Newsletter: Diabetes


Gastroenterology and the Gastrointestinal System

Did you know:

  • The prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome in women is 67% higher than in men.
  • Men are more likely to suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease as compared to women.

Video Lecture: "Northwestern Gastroenterology Behavioral Medicine,” Presented by Dr. Sarah Kinsinger.

WHRI Blog Posts: Physical Activity Promotes Healthy Gut Bacteria in Women
Sex Impacts Success of Crohn's Disease Treatment

WHRI Newsletters: Colorrectal Cancer 
Irritable Bowel Syndrome  


Immunology and the Immune System

Did you know:

  • Women are 3 times more likely to develop an autoimmune disease than men.

Video Lectures: "Rheumatic Diseases in Women,” Presented by Dr. Rosalind Ramsey Goldman.
"Why Sex Matters in Multiple Sclerosis and Other Autoimmune Diseases," Presented by Dr. Melissa Brown.

Literature Reviews: “Sex differences in autoimmune disease,” Voskuhl, R. Biol Sex Differ. 2011; 2:1.
“The Xs and Y of immune responses to viral vaccines,” Klein et al., Lancet Infect Dis. 2010;10(5):338-49.

WHRI Blog Posts: Sex-Specific Treatment Suggested for Women with Gout


Neurology and the Central Nervous System

Did you know:

  • 16% of women over the age of 71 have Alzheimer’s disease compared to 11% of men.
  • Men are more likely to develop Parkinson's Disease or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis compared to women.

Video Lectures: “Neurological Disease in Women,” Presented by Dr. Elizabeth Gerard. 
Sex Influences on Brain and Body: An Issue Whose Time Has Come," Presented by Dr. Larry Cahill.

Literature Review: "Sex and Gender Differences in Central Nervous System-Related Disorders," Zagni et al., Neurosci J. 2016; 2016: 2827090.

WHRI Blog Posts:
Journal of Neuroscience Research Dedicates Issue to Sex-Inclusion
Traumatic Brain Injury: What It Means for Women
Male vs. Female Brains: More Similar or More Different?

WHRI Newsletter: Alzheimer's Disease 


Orthopedics and the Musculoskeletal System

Did you know:

  • Women over the age of 60 have 2 times greater risk of bone fracture than men of the same age.
  • Even when adjusting for age, arthritis is more common in women (23.5%) compared to men (18.1%).
  • Women are 3 times more likely to tear their anterior cruciate ligament compared to men.

Video Lecture: "Osteoporosis Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment: Now and the Future," Presented by Drs. Paula Stern and Allison Hahr

WHRI Blog Post: Sex Differences in Knee Injuries: The Role of Testosterone

WHRI Newsletters: Osteoarthritis 
 Osteoporosis  


Psychiatry and Mental Health

Did you know:

  • Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men.
  • Women have 30.5% lifetime risk of developing an anxiety disorder compared to 19.2% for men.
  • However, men are more likely to develop schizophrenia than women.

Video Lecture: "Asher Center for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders,” Presented by Dr. Sheehan Fisher.

Literature Review: "Sex and gender differences in mental disorders," Riecher-Rössler, A. Lancet Psychiatry. 2017 Jan;4(1):8-9.

WHRI Blog Posts: Hormone Related Depression in Women a Growing Concern

WHRI Newsletter: Depression Across the Female Lifespan  


Pulmonology and the Respiratory System

Did you know:

  • The lifetime risk of developing asthma is 10% greater in women than men.
  • Women are 37% more likely to have COPD than men.
  • Women are 4 times more likely to develop pulmonary hypertension than men.

Literature Review: "Women and Lung Disease. Sex Differences and Global Health Disparities," Pinkerton et al., Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2015 Jul 1;192(1):11-6.

WHRI Blog Posts: Sex Differences May Be Found in COPD

WHRI Newsletter: Airway Disease in Women


Please contact the WHRI at womenshealth.northwestern.edu if you are interested in the full list of references for this page