Women and men are different. Bet you didn’t know that. OK, so some of the differences are kind of apparent—enough that the claim that half of us are from Mars and the other half from Venus seems somewhat plausible. But then there are the differences you can’t detect—differences only science or medicine could discover: how’s and whys and even some of what’s.
We asked doctors to share their picks for the most fascinating differences between women and men. This stuff, we bet you haven’t heard.
You can get the answers of common questions listed below.
- What are the differences between male and female?
- Do males and females think differently?
- How are male and female personalities different?
Alcohol metabolism: Women get a whammy.
The stomach wall contains an enzyme that metabolizes some of the alcohol you drink. Men happen to have loads of it; women less.
Thus, when a guy downs his alcoholic libation of choice, much of it is broken down in the gastric lining, leaving less to get into the bloodstream and cause intoxication. So women, assuming a smaller body-size-to-alcohol ratio, two-for-one happy hour and nefarious dating activities, get a huge dose compared to their dates (1).
It isn’t fair, but so it is.
—Patricia Raymond, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.G., board-certified gastroenterologist, Simply Screening, Chesapeake, Va.; author, Colonoscopy: It’ll Crack U Up! Assistant professor of clinical internal medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School
Older men have more estrogen.
If you compare a healthy 70-year-old man and a healthy 70-year-old woman, who has the higher estrogen level?
It turns out the man does—by two to three times!
Men and women both make estrogen (and testosterone, although in different proportions) throughout their lives. When women go through menopause their estrogen production goes down significantly, but men maintain relatively stable levels.
Come to find out, this is an important factor in men’s bone health, as researchers have discovered over the past decade. It’s a key reason women are much more likely to get osteoporosis.
—Pamela Taxel, M.D., board-certified endocrinologist specializing in osteoporosis; associate professor of medicine, University of Connecticut Health Center Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism (2)
Women may be more resilient after a catastrophe.
Since disaster medicine is such a new specialty, it draws information from prior studies in other disciplines. And it’s revealed some unexpected differences between the sexes.
A recent reexamination of coping and resilience data found that while women are stereotypically seen as more prone to emotional breakdown and emotional injury, the reality is that women tend to be more resilient in the face of disaster and catastrophe. Anecdotal data even suggests women tolerate dehydration and starvation better than men (both physically and emotionally) (3).
—Maurice A. Ramirez, D.O., C.N.S., C.M.R.O., board-certified attending ER physician, Florida Hospital, Flagler; author, You Can Survive Anything, Anywhere, Every Time; founder, consulting firm High Alert
Sports get into women’s heads.
The difference between women and men in athletics is notable. Scientific studies show that adolescent females, unlike males, who actively participate in sports, are less likely to have unwanted pregnancies or multiple sexual partners.
Athletics gives both male and female athletes higher levels of self-esteem and confidence. This increase is thought to empower women to make better choices when it comes to choosing when to have sex. (If females start sports before age 10, they’re more likely to continue.)
—Thomas H. Trojian, M.D., director, Sports Medicine Fellowship, and Injury Prevention and Sports Outreach programs, University of Connecticut Health Center (4)
Men’s belly fat makes surgery harder.
Men and women carry belly fat in different ways. This can impact the ease of surgery.
Obese women often carry their fat in their abdominal wall just under their skin, requiring an incision sometimes several inches thick before reaching the abdominal cavity where the organs are located. They may have relatively little fat surrounding their organs. But even severely obese men often have an abdominal wall only a few centimeters thick, carrying their fat internally around their organs.
For example, pound for pound, a laparoscopic nephrectomy (kidney removal) is usually easier in a female due to the relatively sparse amount of fat surrounding her kidney.
Fortunately, this doesn’t really impact the patient; it’s just something we surgeons have to work around.
—Warren T. Oberle, M.D., urologist, Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore, Md.
Men listen with half their brain.
When my wife, Barb, and I were researching our book His Brain, Her Brain, we came across research from McMaster University showing that women possess a far greater density of nerves in an area of the brain associated with language processing and comprehension.
Another brain-imaging study showed that men listen with only one side of their brain but women use both at the same time. Yet another study found that women can listen to, comprehend and process as many as seven separate auditory inputs (such as conversations) at the same time, whereas men can usually only follow one.
One possible reason for this is women may have a larger corpus callosum, which connects their brain’s left and right hemispheres and could enable them to use several highly connected hearing centers in both sides of the brain simultaneously.
Simply put, women may be better designed to receive and process multiple auditory inputs at the same time. When it comes to hearing, it’s possible that the hemispheres of a man’s brain are connected by some very thin twine between two tin cans.
I have to admit that my wife is better at both listening and hearing than I am. And in the vast majority of women, this is not a learned ability but an inborn skill. The innate differences in hearing ability can be demonstrated when boys and girls are very young.
At one week of age, girls can distinguish their mother’s voice from the sounds made by another baby. Boys can’t.
Scientists who do this work have found that young girls can hear much softer sounds than those audible to young boys. Girls have a sense of hearing that is two to four times better than boys (depending on the frequency tested). This difference is present as early as children can be reliably tested.
All this helps explain why a woman can talk to a friend on the telephone at the same time she listens to the radio, to a child reading out loud at the kitchen table, and to another child and what he is watching on TV in another room!
And it also helps us understand why a man, to talk on the phone, often needs to turn off the TV, turn down the music, and ask the kids to be quiet before he can answer it.
—Walt Larimore, M.D., board-certified family doctor now teaching and writing; co-author, His Brain, Her Brain: How Divinely Designed Differences Can Strengthen Your Marriage
Written by Health affairs Blog
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