Health Inequality, News

Women spending 1.5 times more than men on personal health, report finds


Survey commissioned by Deloitte reveals that women in the UK are spending £1.5bn more each year across all categories of out-of-pocket spending, and recommends more specific action to support women’s health in the workplace.

Women in the UK are spending over £1.5bn more than men on medical-related expenses each year, according to a survey of working adults commissioned by the Deloitte Health Equity Institute Europe. YouGov conducted the survey of 3156 men and women aged over 18 for Deloitte, to gain a clearer picture of “out-of-pocket” health spend – how much money they spend on personal health and care each year.

The Women’s Health Cost Gap in the UK survey finds that 52 per cent of employed women spend out-of-pocket on health each year, versus only 39 per cent of men, suggesting that women experience more pressure to spend their own money on personal healthcare. In total, the women surveyed spent 1.5 times more than men, averaging £305 a year, compared to £210 for men. The figure of £1.5bn was reached by multiplying this £95 surplus by the number of working women in the UK – 16.06 million.

Women also spend more on all categories of out-of-pocket spending, according to the survey. These include fertility, menopause and menstrual health, but also medical diagnostics and wearables, private counselling or other mental health support and general healthcare (e.g. dentistry or physiotherapy). At least some of this differential may be explained by the ‘pink tax’, whereby products aimed at women are priced more expensively than those aimed at men. Women may also be more likely to seek specialist (and therefore more expensive) treatment for female-specific concerns.

In general, the survey finds that women are more aware of the women’s healthcare benefits being offered by employers than men. 40 per cent of men responding to the survey did not know if any women’s health benefits were being offered, versus just 17 per cent of women.

However, many employees lack awareness of measures that could be implemented to support women’s health; 42 per cent of men said they didn’t know how workplaces could support women’s health, versus 17 per cent of women.

The survey finds that 60 per cent women are more attracted to companies which invest in women’s health benefits, rising to 67 per cent among younger women. Only 31 per cent of men felt this way. Despite these figures, only 28 per cent of women consider the provision of women’s health benefits a key factor when choosing a job (compared with 14 per cent of men), suggesting that it is not a deal-breaker.

The report makes several recommendations to address gender-based health disparities in the workplace. Among these, it recommends employers work actively to create women-friendly working environments which understand and account for the specific health needs of women, and to promote a culture where women can take leave for conditions without it negatively impacting their career prospects. This recommendation supports recent guidance issued by the Equality and Human Right Commission guidance, which says that employers could be sued for disability discrimination if they fail to make “reasonable adjustments” for employees going through menopause.

To policy makers, it recommends action to ensure that women can access treatment and care regardless of their age, sexuality, ethnicity, disability or postcode, as well as provision of adequate funding for women’s healthcare services and the financial incentivisation of research into women’s health.

Liz Hampson, partner and head of Deloitte’s European Health Equity Institute, commented: “Women spend significantly more treating ongoing poor health, or seeking out specialist treatment at their own cost, contributing to a higher overall out-of-pocket spend. This ‘health cost gap’ which exists can be attributed to a variety of reasons, including being misdiagnosed more and incidents of pain ‘taken less seriously’ in the healthcare system, underinvestment in women’s health services and underrepresentation of women in medical research.

“Addressing gender-based disparities in health requires a collaborative approach – something that requires investors, healthcare providers, policy makers, life sciences companies and employers to take action on.

“Supporting women’s health is not only important for society, but a sound investment in the future of the workforce and overall economy.”

The full report, including the questions, responses and recommendations, can be accessed here.