The Female Tax: Women pay More For Reproductive Health Financially, Emotionally And Socially

It’s no secret that the American healthcare system has a long way to go before it can be a global standard bearer when it comes to patient advocacy, and in particular, serving the needs of women’s reproductive health without the threat of political or religious biases interfering in the right type of care.

With the highest rates of maternal mortality in the developed world, it’s also easy to compare to other countries like Canada or the UK to see better healthcare structures that address issues that should not be occurring in “the most powerful nation on earth”. However, even in the UK, women are experiencing various challenges and barriers to their own reproductive healthcare, showing that there is a gender bias that exists which ends up becoming a financial burden on half the population.

Labeling this another form of a “pink tax”, here are some of the major issues found in new research about what women are experiencing in the UK health system when focusing on reproductive healthcare:

·         Women spend 30% more on reproductive healthcare essentials than men.

·         4 million women have no-one to talk to about their reproductive health.

·         Trust in doctors eroding over the past 20 years due to cutbacks at GPs.

·         55% of Brits say there needs to be more education about reproductive health.

Women’s reproductive health has historically been undervalued in society, neglected in medical research, prone to misdiagnosis by doctors, trivialized by the media and treated cursorily by governments. Major failings by the government, in the NHS, and by retailers result in women being worse off financially, emotionally and socially when it comes to reproductive health.

New research by specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp has uncovered, among other stark findings, that women are worse off than men on four factors when it comes to reproductive health: how much they spend monetarily, how much time they spend, the rate at which their issues remain unresolved and the emotional toll it takes.

Women are spending at least 30% more on healthcare than men

A 2016 investigation by The Times found evidence of a ‘Pink Tax’, where products aimed at women are priced higher than those aimed at men. Bolt Burdon Kemp’s survey of 2,000 Brits put this into real-world terms.

It found that women are spending at least 30% more than men on every day, basic healthcare essentials. Women spend an extra £45 per year compared to men, on items such as sanitary products, incontinence products, painkillers and anti-sickness medication for reproductive health, and intimate hygiene and grooming products.

In total, women spend £372.36 per year on their healthcare, with younger women spending more than older women:

·         Women aged 25-34 spend between £15.01-20 per month on average. 

·         Women aged 16-24 feature strongly in the group that spends around £10.01-15 per month. 

·         Older women, particularly those over 55 years, spend most on incontinence products and products related to the menopause.

Women spend more time at the doctors than men 

As well as spending money, women are spending time at the doctors and for follow-up appointments at higher rates than men. Women said they’d been to the doctor double the number of times as men, and more women than men have had to go back to the doctor because their issue was not resolved in the first visit.

·         23% of women have been to a doctor 1-2 times in the past 5 years, compared to 9% of men.

·         235,000 British women (approx.) have had to go to the doctor for their reproductive health more than 10 times in the past 5 years. No men reported having to do the same.

·         476,000 British women (approx.) have had to go back to the doctor more than 11 times because their issue wasn’t resolved the first time. Only 162,000 men said the same.

What’s more, according to consultant gynecologist Dr Anne Henderson, many women can it difficult to secure appointments in the first place: “Accessibility to primary care is without doubt one of the leading problems facing women and men when it comes to health; partially due to cuts to the NHS. Women continuously cite lack of flexible access to appointments is a major issue to getting their reproductive issues seen to promptly.”

Women lack support when it comes to reproductive health

While women go to the doctor multiple times more than men, they are also more likely to stop seeking treatment even though their issue is not resolved, compared to men. 22% of women surveyed said they’d stopped seeking official medical treatment for medical health issues compared to 18% of men – a 22% increase.

The research also found that 4 million women state that they have no-one to talk to about their reproductive health, more women (14%) than men (13%) say it’s difficult to talk to their doctor about their reproductive health, and more women (11%) than men (8%) say they don’t feel heard when they talk to doctors about reproductive health. They are also more likely to say they are worried or stressed about issues relating to their reproductive health (26% versus 18%).

Add to that, women are also more likely than men to say they are too busy at work (9% versus 8%) and with family or kids (9% versus 6%) to see a doctor about their reproductive health. Dr Henderson says that it’s not uncommon. “I’ve had female patients who struggle with reproductive issues for longer than they should simply because they struggle to fit in appointments around their working hours and other responsibilities.”

Patients lack information about reproductive health

Bolt Burdon Kemp’s research uncovered that women are more likely than men to rely on the internet for answers. 4 in 10 women would check the NHS website before going to the GP while a quarter of women would rely on a general Google search. Women are also more likely than men to rely on their family, partner or friends for information.

With 55% of Brits agreeing that there needs to be more education about reproductive health from a younger age and 7-million Brits saying they don’t know enough about their reproductive health, it’s clear more needs to be done to inform patients.

‘Bolt Burdon Kemp is committed to raising awareness of women’s health issues in order to reduce cases of missed or delayed diagnoses,’ agrees Olivia Boschat, Senior Solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp. ‘This study makes for worrying reading; seemingly a perfect storm of women not seeking medical help when needed due to embarrassment and pressures of day-to-day life and medical assistance being increasingly less accessible or even trusted. I hope this study will encourage women to prioritize their reproductive health and empower them to take the all-important time to go to their doctor, as well as having the confidence to keep going back until their reproductive health concerns are satisfactorily resolved. The pink tax that women face is a travesty in this day and age and why women continue to fight for equality on all fronts.’

For more info on what women are experiencing in the UK system when it comes to reproductive healthcare, you can read the data at Bolton Burdon Kemp’s Women’s Health Hub.

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