Are women more susceptible to autoimmune disease than men?

Taken together, autoimmune diseases strike women three times more than men. Some diseases have an even higher incidence in women. Autoimmune diseases have been cited in the top ten leading causes of all deaths among U.S. women age 65 and younger.1 Moreover, these diseases represent the fourth-largest cause of disability among women in the United States.2

The fact that women have enhanced immune systems compared to men increases women’s resistance to many types of infection, but also makes them more susceptible to ADs.

In addition, women who have an autoimmune disease have suffered from a lack of focus and a scattered research approach. For example, autoimmunity is known to have a genetic basis and tends to cluster in families as different autoimmune diseases — a mother may have lupus; her daughter, juvenile diabetes and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis; her sister, Graves’ disease; and her grandmother, rheumatoid arthritis.

1. Walsh, SJ, LM. Autoimmune Diseases: A Leading Cause of Death among Young and Middle-Aged Women in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. 2000;90:1463-1465
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office on Women’s Health. Women’s Health Issues: An Overview. Fact sheet. May 2000.
Last updated on May 05, 2017