If, god forbid, you ever went into cardiac arrest in public, you'd hope that people around you would stop to help and administer CPR if they could — no matter your gender.
But a new study suggests that women are less likely than men to get CPR from a bystander, and are more likely to die.
The study, which Associated Press reports was presented Sunday at an American Heart Association conference, found that in nearly 20,000 cases across the U.S., only 39% of women who suffered cardiac arrest in a public place were given CPR, compared to 45% of men. What's more, men were 23% more likely to survive.
Researchers theorized that reluctance to touch a woman's chest might be why bystanders are less likely to step in and help.
"It can be kind of daunting thinking about pushing hard and fast on the center of a woman’s chest," and some people may fear they are hurting her, Audrey Blewer, the study's lead author, said.
The researchers said that people might also worry about having to move a woman's clothing out of the way, but as Benjamin Abella, another study leader said, CPR done the right way wouldn't have to involve doing so.
"You put your hands on the sternum, which is the middle of the chest," he said. "In theory, you’re touching in between the breasts."
Interestingly, when a cardiac incident occurred at home, there was no gender difference between men and women and their likelihood of receiving help. Since the rescuer in that scenario is more likely to know the woman, researchers thought, they may be more likely to help.
The study's findings, researchers said, suggested that CPR training may need to be improved, maybe even to include female mannequins and not just male ones.
"This is not a time to be squeamish because it’s a life and death situation," Abella said.
Read these stories next: