There was a great article in the Atlantic this past week called “What Joe Biden Can’t Bring Himself to Say“. The article focused on his (and the authors) struggle with stuttering, and contained a lot of fascinating information about stuttering that I never knew. Regardless of your political orientation and/or feelings about Joe Biden, it’s a very worthwhile read.
One of the interesting stats it contained was that stuttering was twice in common in boys than in girls, and that girls have a higher recovery rate. I was interested in this, because aside from a vague “girls have better verbal skills earlier, so I guess that makes sense” train of thought, there doesn’t seem to be a clear reason for this. I Googled a bit and found that no one is really clear on the reason for the discrepancy, though there is a thought that girls may tend to get earlier help because people expect them to be more verbal. This discussion got me interested in other similar disorders. We’re not surprised to hear that issues like prostate cancer or breast cancer are more common in one sex than the other, but some things feel like they should be more gender neutral.
I decided to look up a few other examples, though I excluded mental health type disorders since some of the sex differences there can be a bit controversial, and excluded diseases or disorders that seem to be linked to differences in behavior (such as lung cancer):
- Migraines: This one is near and dear to my heart, and women are 3 times more likely to get migraines than men. There are theories that some female specific hormones may increase susceptibility or that some male hormones may be protective, but no one is quite sure about this one either.
- Multiple Sclerosis: MS is another disorder that is two-three times higher in women than men. There has been at least one sex linked brain difference that has been implicated in the discrepancy, but nothing definitive.
- Skin cancer: Okay, this one is partially behavior, but I’m including it because it’s a subtle behavioral thing. Apparently men are far more likely to get skin cancer on their ears and scalp than women are. This is almost certainly because men are more likely to have short hair than women, offering less protection from sun exposure.
- ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease): While Lou Gehrig was unfortunate enough to end up with a terrible disease named after him, it’s not totally surprising the public face of this disease was a man instead of a woman. Men are hit by ALS more often than women by a margin of about 2 to 1. No one’s clear exactly why, though some theories are a greater likelihood of exposure to toxic chemicals or differences in the nervous system.