Gender differences in consulting a general practitioner for common symptoms of minor illness

Soc Sci Med. 1998 Apr;46(7):901-6. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(97)00217-7.


The aim of this paper is to examine whether, in response to the same symptoms of minor illness, women reported a greater propensity to consult a general practitioner than men. Respondents taking part in the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study (853 aged 39 and 858 aged 58) were presented with a check-list of 33 symptoms during the course of a home interview conducted by nurses. They were asked whether they had experienced any of these symptoms in the last month, and if they had, whether they consulted a general practitioner about it. A summary indicator for reporting, or consulting for, at least one symptom was constructed, and statistical associations between gender, reporting and consulting for symptoms were examined using chi-square tests with Yates' correction. Women were more likely to have consulted a general practitioner for at least one of the 33 symptoms of minor illness reported in the previous month (34% of women, 27% of men aged 39, chi2 = 3.97, p < 0.05; 49% of women, 43% of men aged 58, chi2 = 3.21, (NS)). Women were significantly more likely to have consulted for five individual symptoms in the younger cohort, and for three symptoms in the older cohort, whilst men were significantly more likely to have consulted for only one symptom, in the younger cohort. However, when only those who had reported a symptom in the last month were included in analysis there were no gender differences in consulting for any of the 33 symptoms in the older cohort, and for just 3 symptoms in the younger cohort. These data do not support the most widely suggested explanation for gender differences in consulting, that once symptoms are perceived, women have a higher propensity to consult a general practitioner with the symptom than men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physicians, Family / statistics & numerical data*
  • Scotland
  • Sex Factors
  • Sick Role