Published: 04-12-2015 12:49 | Updated: 29-04-2019 12:47

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Women experience that they are not taken seriously in health care and as a rule, they are prescribed more psychoactive drugs. Men on the other hand are offered more examinations, but for them it is more difficult to access help for example depression and osteoporosis. Is this acceptable? We don't think so.


Aiming for for gender equality and the right to be treated equally is the rule in society. Yet, in medical research and health care we also need to focus more on the opposite - namely, the right of everyone to be treated differently, partly based on biological sex and social gender. When the Karolinska Institute, one of the world leading medical universities, launched its Center for Gender Medicine in 2002 they were pioneers in Europe and among the first in the world. During nearly 15 years we have collected, created and disseminated valuable knowledge of sex and gender factors that result in medical outcomes. The Centre has contributed to important research projects to be implemented. It also has both created and participated in a series of national and inter-national networks. The Centre for Gender Medicine has developed into a unique and important resource for both KI and society at large.

The difference between sex and gender

Each cell is genetically sexed and as individuals, we are born with a biological sex. However, we also have to be aware of what is called a social sex - gender. It is our biological and our social sex that together create our gender identity. It is therefore required knowledge in research, medicine and health care, how both of these work together affecting various health statuses, symptoms, and personal well-being.

Gender medicine is not only a women's issue

Many see gender medicine mostly as a matter of improving women's needs and conditions. However, it is as much about men. One example is in depression where health care is experienced as more accessible for women than for men. As a result every year more than twice as many men compared to women commit suicide.

A real case

2013 researchers discovered that Zolpidem against insomnia was metabolized slower in women than in men's bodies, regardless of their size and weight. Women were then prescribed lower doses with reduced side effects which results, for example, in a lower risk of falling asleep when driving. 20 years of side effects could be avoided if the drug had been tested earlier also based on sex and gender factors.

Gender Medicine is no longer optional

Today both sex and gender in research and education are required both at EU level (eg for support from Horizon2020 and EU FP7) and internationally (eg under the US NIH). Center for Gender Medicine at KI can, with our long experience and networking, contribute to the specialist skills and be a quality assurance during both the planning and implementation phases.

Working on multiple fronts

CfGM initiates, coordinates and supports projects in research, information dissemination and advocacy. The vision is to implement gender and gender perspective in research and education interdisciplinary and at all levels. This contributes to innovation, development and the right attitudes which are based on real knowledge. When we are successful, we create tangible difference in many people's everyday lives.

Cooperation as a way to success

To achieve optimal effects despite limited financial and human resources, the Centre for Gender Medicine is dependendent on collaborations. We are looking actively looking for collaborations in health care, with organizations, pharmaceutical companies and opinion leaders. We also need more financial resources to launch and promote important project for a more gender equal medicine and healthcare.

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