Research Scientist

The State of Women's Health

shutterstock_100258691The State of Women's Health Needs a Turnaround

  • American women (and men) have about a 39.3 percent risk of developing cancer in their lifetimes, based on 2014-2016 data. (Source: NIH)
  • About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12.8%) will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, based on 2014-2016 data. (NIH) The five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 89.9%. While the rate of new breast cancer has risen 0.3% per year for the last 10 years, the death rate has declined 1.8% per year. (NIH)
  • In 2019, an estimated 268,600 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer.(NIH)
  • More women (and men) die from lung cancer than any other cancer. Smoking accounts for 90% of lung cancer deaths in women and men. Lung cancer kills more women than breast cancer. Smoking also causes cancer almost anywhere in the body, including the voicebox (larynx), mouth and throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas, cervix, and stomach, and blood (acute myeloid leukemia).In addition to heart disease, women face other health effects from smoking such as problems related to pregnancy. (Source: CDC)



According to NHANES 2015-2016, 41.1% of females are obese, which is almost identical to the nearly 37.9% of men who are obese. (CDC)  Obesity can cause complications during pregnancy or make it more difficult to achieve pregnancy. It also contributes to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. (CDC)

Heart disease:

According to the American Heart Association’s Heart Disease and Stroke 2016 Statistical Update, cardiovascular disease, which includes coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, and stroke, causes 1 in 3 deaths each year. Heart disease alone causes 1 in 7 deaths each year (AHA 2016 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics).


According to the CDC’s National Diabetes Statistics Report,, Approximately 14.9 million American women have diabetes, or high blood sugar. Those with diabetes are twice more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than those without diabetes. Women with diabetes have a higher risk of heart disease (NIH)and are impacted greater by heart disease, compared to men (American Diabetes Association). Women with diabetes who suffer from heart disease have lower survival rates and a poorer quality of life than men (Diabetes Sisters). Among women aged 25-44, the death rate for those with diabetes is more than 3 times the rate without diabetes (CDC). Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that only occurs in pregnant women. If a woman has high blood sugar while pregnant, but has never had high blood sugar before, she has gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes can lead to problems during delivery and large birth weight of babies. (CDC: Gestational Diabetes)

Reproductive Disease & Illnesses: 
  • Alcohol is a teratogen and can cause harmful neurological effects to a developing baby. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is the country’s leading known preventable cause of mental retardation and birth defects. The belief that only drinking late in the pregnancy, or that wine and beer are also safe, are false popular beliefs. There is no known safe time or amount of alcohol use during pregnancy. (Source: NOFAS)
  • One out of ten babies was born premature in the United States in 2017 (CDC). The rate of premature births increased 36% since the early 1980s, which means today there are over half a million premature births a year in America. (Source: March of Dimes)

  • Preeclampsia occurs in at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, affecting both the mother and the unborn baby. This rapidly progressive condition is characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine, while symptoms include swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia, which typically occurs after 20 weeks gestation and up to six weeks postpartum.  HELLP syndrome and eclampsia (seizures) are other variants of preeclampsia. Worldwide, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year.  (Source:   Preeclampsia Foundation)
  • Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two most commonly reported infectious diseases in the United States and affects adolescent girls (15-19 years of age) and young women (20-24 years of age) most often. This is likely due to several factors, including biological differences that place females at greater risk for STDs than males, as well as higher screening rates among young women. (Source: CDC
  • Between 2005 and 2014, the number of new HIV diagnoses among women declined 40%.In 2017, women accounted for 19 percent of the 39,739 newly reported HIV cases among adults and adolescents. HIV disproportionately affects African American and Hispanic women. (Source: NIH)

  • 6% of married women ages 15-44 years of age are infertile, or not able to achieve pregnancy after one year. Also, about 12% of women 15–44 years of age in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term (impaired fecundity), regardless of marital status. Infertility is not always a woman's problem. Both men and women contribute to infertility. (CDC)



Nearly 16 million Americans experienced depression in 2014. One out of ten women aged 18-44 will have major depression in their lifetime. (

Anxiety Disorders:

Anxiety disorders are diagnosed 2-3 times more often in women than in men, and eating disorders occur 8-10 times more frequently in women. Because women often are caregivers to children and older adults, their mental disorders can affect two or three generations of a family. Handling multiple responsibilities can cause stresses that amplify the illness. (Source: NIH)

Auto-immune Diseases:
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome occurs up to four times more often in women than in men. (Source:
  • Arthritis includes over 100 diseases and conditions, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and lupus. Overall, arthritis is more common among women (26.0%) than men (19.1%) in every age group, and is more common among those who are obese. It is the country’s leading cause of disability. (Source: CDC)
  • Out of the 50 million Americans suffering from autoimmune diseases 75% of them are women.
    Women are three times more likely than men to get an autoimmune disease. (Source: AARDA)

  • Multiple sclerosis, or MS, affects three times as many women than men, with diagnoses usually made as young adults. An estimated 2-5% of cases begin before age 16. The most widely held hypothesis for the cause of MS is that it occurs in patients with a genetic susceptibility and is triggered by certain environmental factors. (Sources: CDC, National MS Society
Health & Economic Disparities:

Significant disparities exist among diverse groups of women. For example, cancer is the number one killer of Asian-American women, who at the same time have lower rates of heart disease than other women. African American women are more likely to die of breast cancer and have a higher incidence of disease, disability and early death than women of other minority groups.
African American women have a higher infant, fetal, and perinatal mortality rate than white women. Non-Hispanic black and some Hispanic populations have preterm birth rates 27%-60% higher than non-Hispanic white women. (

These health disparities are believed to be the results of the complex interaction among genetic variations, environmental factors, and specific health behaviors. (Source: NCICDC & U.S. Dept. of H&HS)


Link to: The State of Children's Health


 Updated 6-20-19





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