Background: An overview of European blood donors shows that the distribution of men and women donors is similar in many countries, with Italy being an exception in that women account for only 30% of donors. Gender medicine is a key issue in this context, even though gender studies are very limited in the transfusion field, whether considered broadly or with specific regards to the selection, management and retention of donors. It, therefore, seemed important to compare the presence of women among blood donors in different European countries and examine the roles that gender is reported to play in the donation of blood in order to identify possible implications for communication with and management of the donor.
Methods: To determine the proportion of women among donors in European countries, data were collected from annual reports or documents available on the websites of national associations; furthermore, all papers related to giving blood published in the five main journals in the sector (Transfusion, Vox Sanguinis, Transfusion and Apheresis Science, Transfusion Medicine, Blood Transfusion) were considered; about 80 publications were selected and the gender variable was examined.
Results: The published studies showed that gender plays key roles in the motivation to give blood (women being more altruistic, men being more individualistic) and in adverse reactions, which was a particularly critical problem leading to fewer women become regular donors. A few aspects specific to the management of donors in Italy also emerged.
Discussion: Gender seems to play an important role in the aspects studied and does, therefore, merit further consideration in relation to strategies to recruit donors and the management of critical events during donation.
Keywords: blood; donation; gender differences.