Men more likely to receive CPR from strangers than women, study finds

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Could fear of being accused of inappropriately touching a woman make people more wary of giving a female stranger CPR should she be suffering a medical emergency in public? A recent study shows that may very well be the case, and it could be costing people their lives.

According to researchers from the Center for Resuscitation Science at the University of Pennsylvania, men suffering from a cardiac event in a public setting are 1.23 times more likely to receive emergency CPR from a bystander than women. Consequently, men are also are more likely to survive because of a stranger’s willingness to administer aid.

CPR chest compressions
A new study finds that men suffering from a cardiac event in a public setting are 1.23 times more likely to receive emergency CPR from a bystander than women.(Photo credit: US Navy Central Command on Flickr)

The authors believe that more people may feel simply less comfortable performing chest compressions on a strange woman because it would of course require them to come in contact with her breasts.

“CPR involves pushing on the chest so that could make people less certain whether they can or should do CPR in public on women,” argues first author Audrey Blewer, the assistant director for educational programs at the Center for Resuscitation Science, in a news release by the Americah Heart Association.

To reach their findings, the authors turned to data collected by a network of regional cardiac clinics in the United States and Canada called the Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium, which kept vast records of cardiac events. Overall, they used 19,331 records of cardiac events in the home and in public to draw their statistical conclusions.

Some of the statistics were disheartening. Only 37% of people intervened in a cardiac event with CPR in varied settings. The disparity between the sexes in public is stark: 45% of men received CPR in a public setting, compared to only 39% of women. According to the study, men have a 23% better chance to survive a cardiac event in public than women.

In the home setting, however, the percentages of those who received CPR treatment were roughly the same across genders.

The research team hopes their work will improve instruction and education of CPR programs across the US.

“We’re only beginning to understand how to deliver CPR in public, although it’s been around for 50 years,” says Dr. Benjamin Abella, the study’s senior author and director of the Center for Resuscitation Science. “Our work highlights the fact that there’s still so much to learn about who learns CPR, who delivers CPR and how best to train people to respond to emergencies.”

The study’s findings were presented to attendees at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in November 2017.