Sudden Cardiac Death More Common in Men vs Women, Suggests New Study

Men were more likely to experience sudden cardiac death (SCD) than women across all age groups in a new nationwide study published in the journal Heart.

SCD is more common among men than women, however, epidemiological studies of sex differences in SCD cases across age groups are limited. For that reason, the aim of the current study was to examine differences in incidence rates, clinical characteristics, comorbidities, and autopsy findings between men and women with SCD.

The study included 54 028 reported deaths in Denmark in 2010. Cases of SCD were identified based on review of autopsy reports, death certificates, hospital discharge summaries, and nationwide health registries. Once cases were subcategorized, 6867 cases of SCD were identified.

Of the identified SCD cases, 56% (n=3859) were among men and 44% (n=3008) were among women, according to researchers led by Tobias Skjelbred, MD, internist, PhD student, Department of Cardiology, The Heart Centre, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark.

The incidence rates of SCD increased with age and were higher in men than women across all age groups in the adult population. The average age at time of SCD was 71 years among men compared with 79 years among women (P<.01).

The greatest difference in SCD incidence between the sexes was seen in among the group aged 35-50 years with an incidence rate ratio of 3.7 (95% confidence interval, 2.8-4.8), wrote Skjelbred and colleagues.

Among those who experienced SCD, men were more likely than women to have cardiovascular diseases and diabetes mellitus (P<.01), according to the study results.

“This is the first nationwide study of sex differences in SCD across all ages,” concluded the team. “Differences in incidence rates between males and females were greatest among young adults and the middle-aged. Incidence rates of SCD among older female population approached that of the male population, despite having significantly more cardiovascular disease and diabetes in male SCD cases.”


Reference: Skjelbred S, Rajan D, Svane J, Hadberg Lynge T, Tfelt-Hansen J. Sex differences in sudden cardiac death in a nationwide study of 54 028 deaths. Heart. Published online ahead of print March 11, 2022. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2021-320300.