Medication adherence is a multifaceted subject, and recognizing that gender may influence a patient’s level of adherence is frequently overlooked. According to an article, “Medication Adherence: Are Women Worse than Men at Taking Their Meds?" understanding how gender impacts a patients’ understanding of their health condition and the relative importance of taking their medication could help explain the gender gap related to medication adherence and help health care providers address barriers and develop patient education tools more appropriately.
Intuitively, my gut told me that women would be more likely to be loyal to their medication regimens, but the article indicated otherwise! Initially I was surprised, but after reading the article and thinking about the valid points raised by some health care professionals regarding reasons for non-adherence, my gut was convinced otherwise.
Apparently the gender difference sways in favor of men! According to a recent survey, 45% of the women said that they have been non-adherent, compared to just 36% of the men. Approximately 30% of the women (versus just 20% of the men) admitted that they had either neglected to fill a new prescription or discontinued a medication without being instructed.
Although, adherence issues like forgetfulness, cost, and confusion about how and why a medication should be taken seem to branch across gender, there is growing research that suggests the gender gap in drug observance is a legitimate concern that needs to be explored further and addressed accordingly. Consider psychosocial factors such as depression, cognitive impairment, and living alone which tend to be more prevalent among women; such issues are recognized as significant contributors to poor medication adherence.
Also, consider that women, as caregivers, have a tendency to prioritize others' health before their own. Herein lays the dilemma for women, since a majority of self-identified caregivers are women. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, “Are Caregivers Adherent to Their Own Medications?” 46% of the caregivers stated that it was more important that they take care of their family members than themselves. More than half (52%) claimed they were willing to sacrifice their own health to make sure family members receive proper care.
Finally, the inquisitive nature of women makes them more likely to research their medications on the internet and readily discuss health and medication issues with their friends and family. Subsequently women worry more about how medication could affect them, are more likely to entertain the “medical advice” of their trusted friends and relatives, and question the benefits and necessity of taking the medication at all. Open access to misleading information frequently leads to the discontinuation of medication without doctor approval. Think about how many times you have googled symptoms on WebMD and “diagnosed” yourself or loved ones!
After contemplating the three compelling arguments presented in this article regarding psychosocial issues, caregiver status, and the questioning nature of women as they relate to medication devotion, I was able to accept and understand the gender gap more clearly. I am curious what your gut tells you and what you now think about the potential medication adherence gender gap?