Women in Saudi Arabia, who suffer heart attacks, are delaying life-saving treatment because they need a man's permission to travel to hospital, new research by the University of Ulster has revealed.
Female patients surveyed at three hospitals in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, waited five times as long as men to attend hospital, researcher, Hassan Alshahrani, from the Institute of Nursing and Health Research has discovered.
He said: "Women and men took a similar length of time to realise their symptoms were serious and decide to call for help. However, once they made that decision women took five times longer to transfer to hospital - 0.5 hours for men and 2.5 hours for women.
"Findings from this study confirm that cultural factors are implicated and the fact that females need permission of a male relative to travel and that they cannot do so unaccompanied is contributing to their long delays.
"The speed of treatment during a heart attack greatly enhances survival so the findings of this study suggests that women's chances of surviving a heart attack and receiving prompt care are dramatically reduced by cultural issues."
In the survey 189 patients, both men and women, who presented with a diagnosis of myocardial infarction, (a heart attack), were questioned between March 2011 and August 2011.
Subsequently, 18 patients (9 males and 9 females) took part in one-to-one interviews. Some of the women described their experience in their own words:
B5 said: "Nothing stopped me except the absence of my son (Osama); this is the truth, because I and Osama's wife are females, and moreover, were without Mahram (male relative to escort woman)."
B7 said: "I was worried because my deceased husband preferred me not to go alone with a taxi driver, as I am female and I did not have a Mahram. Also, my daughter did not like to go by taxi, because my son will be angry; as he told me only to go with the private driver."