Gender and Treatment

The purpose of this feature is to visualize differences between female and male patients' medical treatment at the Asylum. Data from Admissions Record Book, 1817-1911 and Minutes and Register of the Committee of Admission, 1817-1856 tell a lot about how men and women with common diagnoses had different treatment experiences. As you will see below, given a particular diagnosis, there are at times vast differences in the amount of time female patients stayed in the Asylum to be deemed the same amount of cured as male patients, and vice-versa.

The data used in this visualization represent the roughly 2200 patients who were admitted between 1817 and 1885.

Click through each of the common diagnoses below to see in which ways treatment success was perceived to be different between male and female patients. For reference, click here to view common nineteenth-century definitions of each diagnosis.

The graph below compares the average length of stay in the Asylum versus status on discharge between all male and female patients, regardless of their diagnosis. As you might predict, the bars get taller from left to right, indicating that all patients tended to stay in the Asylum longer the harder it was to cure them. Perhaps unforseen is the apparent difference between the time spent in the Asylum by male and female patients who were ultimately deemed stationary.

Although this chart depicts overall averages, it is hardly consistent with data when separated by diagnosis. Click the above tabs to compare patients of each diagnosis to these overall averages.

2 3 = Female Patients
2 = Male Patients

Although female restored, much improved, and improved dementia patients received treatment for slightly less time than men, this is not the case for those who were considered to be stationary or who died at the Asylum. To be oficially deemed "stationary," therefore unable to benefit from further treatment and realeased from the Asylum, female dementia patients spent an average of about 658 days longer than male dementia patients. In addition, the female dementia patients who ultimately died during treatment spent an average of 792 days longer in the Asylum than the male dementia patients who also died there.

2 3 = Female Patients
2 = Male Patients

Much like the overall data, female mania patients of every status on discharge except "stationary" spent about the same or slightly more time in the Asylum as the respective male patients. However, male patients deemed "stationary" spent on average 4,510 days longer than female patients released with the same progress! This is definitely one of the largest female-favoring disparaties among our records.

2 3 = Female Patients
2 = Male Patients

Like dementia, melancholia is a diagnosis for which women seemed to receive more-cured statuses in shorter time than men, yet were made to stay in the Asylum for significantly longer amounts of time to be deemed untreatable.

2 3 = Female Patients
2 = Male Patients

By chance, there are no female monomania patients who left the Asylum with a status of "much improved". Still, those who were characterised as simply "improved" stayed significantly longer in the Asylum to be considered "improved" than men. Though not as drastically, this trend continues in female patients who were considered to be "restored", or fully cured. Monomania is the only diagnosis for which women had significantly longer treatments than men to receive a "restored" status upon their discharge.

2 3 = Female Patients
2 = Male Patients

Conclusions

Since we have not found any direct mention of gender biases in treatment in the notes we have from Friends' Asylum's medical staff, the data analyzed above is our only way to understand the different medical experiences of men and women. Interesting trends among these statistics for each diagnosis, such as the similarity of the dementia and melancholia gender comparisons or the resemblance of the mania data to the total data, are telling of how people thought about medicine and mental illness in the 1800s. Perhaps the fact that female patients afflicted with dementia and melancholia, the two diagnoses defined in terms of emotion, were more easily discharged as cured than women with other illnesses suggests that physicians at the time expected such emotional behavior from women more than men. And, as the most common diagnosis, mania patients perhaps experienced a more standardized treatment. Intentional or not, these patterns are just two of many ways in which treatment at Friends' Asylum may have been inconsistent.