"Weaker Sex" Is Stronger, More Resistant To Disease
( Originally Published 1936 )
There seems to be no question that it is a great disadvantage to be a male, so far as the possibility of serious disease is concerned.
This startling conclusion is based upon very careful studies that have recently been reported from one of the large clinics of the country in the official bulletin of The American College of Physicians.
Considering those diseases which are common to both sexes, the male is afflicted far oftener than the female, and that it is not entirely due to the bad habits that man acquires, I am happy to be able to report that it applies also to diseases which cause death before birth. "Venery, alcoholism, exposure, overwork, and various other factors, may influence the susceptibility to disease and the greater mortality of the adult male, but they are only straws placed on the greater burden of his sex-linked weakness. There seems to be no doubt that, speaking comparatively, the price of maleness is weakness. How ironical, therefore, seems the precept of the apostle: `Give honor unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel.' "
For instance, in diseases of the digestive tract, the only diseases which affect women predominantly more than men are gallstones and cancer of the gall bladder. The poor men have a long list of things, beginning with perforated duodenal ulcer, and including cancer of the large bowel, cardiospasm, acute appendicitis and sarcoma of the stomach, all more frequently than women do. When it comes to diseases of the heart and circulatory system, it looks as if nature just naturally went out and put the women aside and knocked the men on the head right and left. Only two diseases in this group are more frequent in women than in men varicose veins and mitral endocarditis.
So it goes. What is the cause of it? Nobody knows. Philosophy might say that a wise nature, knowing the males to be numerically less important in the scheme of reproduction, is less careful of them. But it is strange that she should conceive them in superabundance only immediately to begin to reduce their number by death.
The nutrition rate (metabolism) of males is a little higher than females. It is thought that femaleness is characterized by preponderant building up of tissues, and maleness by preponderant tearing down.
Of some practical importance in these studies is the fact that at least one disease, hemophilia (spontaneous bleeding), occurs only in males, and may be checked in them by the use of the female sex hormone. It is possible that the same treatment might apply to certain other strictly male diseases.
It is strange that with all this there should not be an evident preponderance of women in the world, but apparently the diseases which are peculiar to them, especially the risks of childbirth, seem to even up the scales. Perhaps there are more old women in the world than men; I never happened to notice.