Sex Differences in Stroke Epidemiology: A Systematic Review

Stroke. 2009 Apr;40(4):1082-90. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.108.540781. Epub 2009 Feb 10.


Background and purpose: Epidemiological studies, mainly based on Western European surveys, have shown that stroke is more common in men than in women. In recent years, sex-specific data on stroke incidence, prevalence, subtypes, severity and case-fatality have become available from other parts of the world. The purpose of this article is to give a worldwide review on sex differences in stroke epidemiology.

Methods: We searched PubMed, tables-of-contents, review articles, and reference lists for community-based studies including information on sex differences. In some areas, such as secular trends, ischemic subtypes and stroke severity, noncommunity-based studies were also reviewed. Male/female ratios were calculated.

Results: We found 98 articles that contained relevant sex-specific information, including 59 incidence studies from 19 countries and 5 continents. The mean age at first-ever stroke was 68.6 years among men, and 72.9 years among women. Male stroke incidence rate was 33% higher and stroke prevalence was 41% higher than the female, with large variations between age bands and between populations. The incidence rates of brain infarction and intracerebral hemorrhage were higher among men, whereas the rate of subarachnoidal hemorrhage was higher among women, although this difference was not statistically significant. Stroke tended to be more severe in women, with a 1-month case fatality of 24.7% compared with 19.7% for men.

Conclusions: Worldwide, stroke is more common among men, but women are more severely ill. The mismatch between the sexes is larger than previously described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Ischemia / epidemiology*
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Stroke / epidemiology*