Research shows that women are less likely to receive bystander CPR in public

Research shows that women are less likely to receive bystander CPR in public

A new American Heart Association video spotlights the crucial role of bystander CPR among women in light of research findings that show gender disparities in bystander CPR response in public. The powerful video, produced by the American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, in conjunction with Anthem Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Anthem, Inc., looks to encourage millennial women to learn Hands-Only CPR because they may serve as a first responder if they witness an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

Over 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside the hospital each year in the U.S. CPR, especially if performed immediately, can triple a person’s chances of survival.  Yet, women are less likely to receive bystander CPR in public, according to research from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Concerns about inappropriate contact or causing injury may help explain why bystanders are less likely to perform CPR on women who collapse with cardiac arrest, according to recent research from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver.  

“Every second counts during cardiac arrest, but barriers such as misconceptions can stand in the way that may contribute to a delay in CPR or CPR not being performed at all,” said Audrey L. Blewer, PhD, MPH, American Heart Association volunteer expert and Assistant Director for Educational Programs at the Center for Resuscitation Science in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Through public health education efforts such as this new video, I think the public will be emotionally moved to understand that cardiac arrest can strike at any time to someone you know, love or perhaps even a stranger and that bystander CPR needs to begin immediately. This is why it’s imperative we educate the public that there is no difference in performing CPR on a man or woman.”

The video called, “Shared Moments,” begins with two best friends at a café when one of the women experiences a cardiac arrest. The story then flashes through a series of vignettes that depict the progression of their friendship and its milestones, culminating with the best friend performing Hands-Only CPR. A call to action urges viewers to be the difference and learn Hands-Only CPR to save a life.

Forty-six percent of women compared to 54 percent of men reported they would likely give Hands-Only CPR in an emergency, according to an Association Hands-Only CPR Research Tracking Study. The study further showed that more adults age 18-34 (55 percent) than adults age 35 and older (47 percent) report they would likely give Hands-Only CPR in an emergency. However, the gender difference is marked among the youngest generation where 49 percent of women age 18 to 34 would be likely to give Hands-Only CPR in an emergency while 63 percent of men age 18 to 34 report the same.

Sadly, in situations of cardiac arrest gender disparities affect patients and rescuers alike,” said John Potvin, Captain, and Director of Emergency Medical Services in East Providence, Rhode Island. John is also on the Regional Board of Directors for the Southern New England American Heart Association. “Evidence shows that women are less likely to perform CPR and more importantly less likely to receive CPR if they are in cardiac arrest,” Captain Potvin said. “Bringing this issue to light will go a long way to help improve survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest for all patients regardless of gender.” 

In Rhode Island, CPR has been added to the curriculum for high school students, said Captain Potvin. “This initiative should help break down gender barriers,” he said. Rhode Island also has sixteen heart-safe communities.

 According to Potvin, the goal of this program is to recognize communities that have developed programs to increase the utilization of bystander CPR and decrease the devastating effects of sudden out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. “It is never too early or too late to take the steps to learn to save a life,” said Captain Potvin. 

In communities of color, bystander CPR rates also are low. Neighborhoods whose residents are mainly African-American or Hispanic are two to three times more likely to have cardiac arrest outside of a hospital. Yet, African-Americans and Hispanics are 30 to 50 percent less likely to have bystander CPR performed on them. The new video will help raise awareness about the disparity gap that may prevent many Americans from living longer, healthier lives and educate them about the two easy steps of Hands-Only CPR to positively impact better health outcomes.

“Anthem Foundation is committed to providing communities across the country with access to educational, innovative programs and resources that engage individuals to lead healthier, more active lives,” said Lance Chrisman, executive director, Anthem Foundation. “Through our continued support of important initiatives such as the Hands-Only CPR lifesaving skill we can continue to teach individuals how every person trained is one more ‘first responder’ who can help save a life.”

Hands-Only CPR has two steps performed in this order: first, call 911 when you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse, and then push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of a familiar song that has 100 to 120 beats per minute. To learn more about Hands-Only CPR and watch short training videos, visit


About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

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