Women turn to brands for health advice after feeling sidelined by professionals

Women turn to brands for health advice after feeling sidelined by professionals


Nearly half of women say not being taken seriously by health professionals is a key issue when accessing healthcare, according to a survey released today by leading women’s health communications agency Thrive.

And two-thirds of women in the survey said their health or wellbeing has been negatively impacted by poor language or tone from either online advice or from a medical professional.

Meanwhile more than three-quarters want brands to provide more health information, representing huge opportunities for brands to advocate for women. These opportunities are explored in detail in Thrive’s Changing the narrative brand briefing.

The survey comes at a time when the gender health gap is gaining wider recognition, following the appointment of Maria Caulfield, the UK’s first minister for women’s health, the launch of Scotland’s Women’s Health Plan and the Wellbeing for Women’s Menopause Workplace Pledge. In 2021, Organon also became the first dedicated female pharma company.

Thrive ran the survey to delve further into the personal impact of the gap, knowing that female conditions and their impact on women’s health is often undiagnosed and overlooked. Less is known about conditions that only affect women and women are also often more likely to be misdiagnosed than men. Misdiagnosis is particularly serious when it comes to heart conditions with women more likely to die of a heart attack than men.

More than 1,000 women in the UK were asked to pick the three main issues in accessing healthcare from a list of 12 options. The most picked option, chosen by more than 44pc of women was ‘not being taken seriously by healthcare professionals’. This was closely followed by ‘lack of understanding of women’s lives and experiences’ and ‘lack of understanding of female bodies’, pointing again to the issues around the gender health gap.

In the survey, 77pc of women wanted to see more health information from brands. But they said it needs to be direct, expert-led, empathetic and free from stereotypes.

Elsewhere, when asked to pick what advice they’d most want to give their younger selves out of a series of options, looking after their mental health came out top, followed by ‘don’t be embarrassed about your body’.

Sarah Redshaw, Thrive’s Content Director, said they survey results were worrying but offered a helpful insight into what needed to be done to bridge the gender health gap. She added that they also represented an opportunity for brands to provide trusted and relatable health information as women who feel sidelined turn to alternative sources of advice.

“A lack of empathetic communication in the health sector leads to self-doubt and worry for many women. This is when brands can take up the baton and provide the accessible, expert-led, empathetic information that women need.”

Sarah added: “There was significant progress made last year to try to narrow the gender health gap but there is still a long way to go. We wanted to identify some of the issues around inequalities so that action can be taken to address them.

“The fact that body embarrassment and mental health came so high in the survey responses when women were asked what advice they’d give their younger selves makes it hard not to connect these concerns.

“But we must also address the incredibly worrying fact that women feel they aren’t taken seriously when it comes to their health and also that their health and wellbeing is impacted by poor language and tone, whether that’s information online or from a health professional.

“The factors that play into the gender health gap are clearly complex and deeply embedded but communicating with women in a way that makes them feel supported is essential when it comes to closing that gap.”

Thrive’s Changing the narrative brand briefing reveals key insights and opportunities for brands to leverage content and create empowering connections with women. You can download it here.

You can also connect with the agency on LinkedIn and, if you would like to discuss how we can help with your health communications, get in touch at info@thriveagency.uk

Notes to editors:
A total of 1,013 women aged from 18 upwards responded to the survey which was sent out across the UK in February 2022.

For more information contact Sarah Redshaw at sarahredshaw@thriveagency.uk or on 07940 196 181.

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