Gender Health Inequalities – Gender and Health

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Introduction

Gender plays an important role in health inequality. Scientists have been wondering whether there is a relationship between mortality and morbidity rates, and gender. Besides, sexes have different biological features which may cause health inequality between males and females (Annandale & Hunt 2000). Gender is considered a learned identity and is determined by social and cultural aspects; it may cause health inequality between men and women (World Health Organization, 2002). Although most people think that gender is the major reason for health inequality, others believe that there are other reasons such as socioeconomic status, education, globalization, and culture.

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Mortality and morbidity differences between males and females

Scientists have debated on the validity of the popular statement that “Males die sooner and females get sicker”. As a result, a number of studies have been conducted on the subject of men’s and women’s health. Although a number of these studies demonstrate that there are some differences in mortality and morbidity rate among males and females, on the other hand, others reveal that such differences are oversimplified. A study reported by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reveals that the average life expectancy for males in Australia is 79 years, while that of females is 84 years (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2010). Also, studies show that Australian males have a greater life less than their female counterparts by 70 percent in Australia (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2010). Moreover, men tend to ignore physical discomforts because of their perceived ideology about manly aspects in most societies (Verbrugge 1982). For the same reason, men tend to ignore medical symptoms until their conditions are more advanced and less amenable to control (Vanbrugh, 1982). Furthermore, males engage in higher-risk activities than females, and they also work in riskier environments compared with (Broomer 2009). Consequently, males usually get injuries and incurable diseases, resulting in earlier deaths than females.

With regard to morbidity rates, some studies indicate that males are healthier or have similar levels of health to those of females. Nonetheless, other studies show that poor health is mostly reported by females such as the result of a study conducted in China (Shietal et al. 2009). Moreover, according to another study conducted in Australia, most diseases are common in one gender rather than the other. Some of these diseases include Anxiety, Depression, and Breast Cancer. Cardiovascular diseases including Stroke, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and migraines are common among females compared with males (Commonwealth of Australia 2008). Also, other studies show that there are some common diseases among men. These include Testicular Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Lung Cancer, and commenting suicide (Broom 2009). As a result, males and females differ to some extent on the issues of mortality and morbidity rates, with females experiencing higher rates of diseases due to their relative longevity in life expectancy compared to males (Women’s Health Advisor 2009).

The issue of gender health inequality is multifaceted. It results from complex differences of biological aspects and different forms of social life, such as having different experiences and exposure to different lifestyles and environments. Biological aspects of males and females mostly differ in the sexual organs. These organs can potentially affect gender health equality because men and women are likely to contract different diseases (Boomer 2009). However, both genders may have the same kind of diseases in non-sexual organs, or the diseases might be common in one form of gender. For example, males may contract testicular and prostate cancer while females may get breast cancer and cervical cancer. On the other hand, both sexes can get cardiovascular disease, although it is most common among females (Boomer 2009).

In addition, many of the diseases causing health inequality between men and women result from different social contexts. Firstly, some experiences by males and females may shape their health outcomes. The effect of negative social experience is the same for both genders but it might be common in one of them, which results in health inequality. Violence would be a good example to explain how the experience may affect the formation of different personal meanings and social consequences (Walkernetal 2009). Males can also be the victims of violence by their female partners but it is mostly by other males. Also, males usually engage in violence with other males to show some form of masculinity. However, Females usually experience violence by males and mostly by their loved ones or former partners. Usually, this kind of violence affects women’s mental health resulting in their use of depression and anxiety drugs (Walkenetal 2009).

Furthermore, although the reasons for some diseases are still uncertain, others are identified clearly by their risk factors. The working environment would be an effective example to illustrate gender health inequality. The female working environment tends to be underestimated or hazards to females’ health in the workplace may be unseen. For instance, females can be at a greater risk of mental health problems due to poorly paid or unpaid work (Walkenetal 2009). However, males working environment tends to be more hazardous than that of females because they usually suffer from such injuries as, construction, mining, waterside work, and farming (Boomer 2009). Thus, to a certain extent, different types of exposure in the lifespan for both genders are considered gendered.

Population Health

Although Gender and sex are important risk factors of health inequality, there are other major features that affect the health of the population. These are socioeconomic status, education, globalization, and culture. Socioeconomic status is one of the major effects on human health. This is because socioeconomic state results from employment and income and these are usually affected by the level of education (Australian Institute of health and welfare, 2010). So, if people have a high salary, it is usually the consequence of high education. High education is also likely to result in healthy lifestyles (Australian Institute of health and welfare 2010). Also, high socioeconomic status leads to better access to social and economic amenities, leading to better health (Mikkonen and Raphael 2010). However, low socioeconomic status leads to lower health conditions compared with high socioeconomic status. For example, most of the indigenous people in America and New Zealand have lower socioeconomic status compared with the rest of the population, leading to a higher mortality rate (Marmot 2006).

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Education is important for good health. Good education leads to a high salary, better occupations, and high knowledge which allows them to take good care of themselves (Cooper 2002). According to research conducted by surveys’ in 1989, 1995 and 2001, people with higher education usually have better health than those without ( Queensland University of technology and the Australian Institute of health and welfare 2006) However, People who have a low level of education ( less than Bachelor degree) usually have higher health risks such as diabetes, obesity, alcohol risk, and hypertension (Queensland University of technology and the Australian Institute of health and welfare 2006). Thus, education is important for better health conditions.

Globalization may affect health inequality. Immigrating to other countries has increased because of the ease of traveling. However, immigration may affect indigenous people living in these countries negatively (Lewis and Lewis 2009). This is because a large number of immigrants may have a high influence in changing indigenous population culture and they may take over many good working chances, thereby putting a lot of pressure on the indigenous people, leading to having some mental health issues and another form of diseases. Bali for example is a tourist’s place which has many working and investment opportunities. The area is mostly occupied by non-Balinese people who immigrate from another part of Indonesia (Lewis and Lewis 2009). As a result, most Balinese work in low-paid jobs and some of them work as prostitutes (Lewis and Lewis, 2009). Also, prostitutes have a high potential to spread sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/Aids (Lewis and Lewis 2009).

Culture is considered an important element in people’s life; it mostly set the values and boundaries for people. So, culture has a direct intangible impact on human health and in some societies, it may cause health inequality. Saudi Arabia for example has a unique culture that has different sets of boundaries for males and females (Mobaraki and Soderfeild 2010). Saudi Arabians may thus suffer from gender health inequality because of its cultural norms (Mobaraki and Soderfeild 2010). For example, sometimes women are not allowed to seek medical advice alone, and this may result in gender health inequality (Mobaraki and Soderfeild 2010).

Conclusion

Some people believe that there are some differences in terms of mortality and morbidity rates between males and females, while others think it is an oversimplification. Also, it is suggested that there is a relationship between health inequality and gender. Although some people think gender is the major reason for health inequality, others think there are many other reasons for health inequality. It is thought that different sexes and social contexts between males and females cause health inequality to some extent. It can be suggested that gender, socioeconomic status, education, globalization, and culture influence the population’s health.

References

Annandale, E., & Hunt, K., 2000. Gender inequalities in health. Buckingham: Hunt Open University Press

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Australian Institute of Health and Welfare., 2010. Australia’s Health 2010. Web.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare., 2010. Australia’s Healthseries No. 12. Cat. No. AUS 122. Web.

Broom, D., 2009. Gender and health. In Germov, J (eds ), Second Opinion. South Melbourne: Victoria Publishing.

Commonwealth of Australia., 2008. Women’s Health Policy. Department of Health and Aging, Vol 1-74186-799-1, pp. 3-477.

Cooper, H., 2002. Investigating Socio-economic Explanations for gender and Ethnic Inequalities in Health. Web.

Lewis, B., & Lewis, J., 2009. Conflict, Insecurity and Disasters. In Keleher, H & Macdougall, C ( eds ), Understanding Health , South Melbourne: Victoria Publishing.

Marmot, M., 2006. Health in an unequal world. Harvein Oration, Vol 368, pp. 2081-2094.

Mikkonen, J., & Raphael., 2010. The Canadian Facts. Social Determinants of Health, Vol 978-0-9683484-1-3, pp. 7-53.

Mobararaki, A., & Soderfeld, B., 2010. Gender inequity in health policy its role in public health. Web.

Queensland University of Technology and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare., 2006. Health Inequalities in Australia : morbidity, health behaviours, risk factors and health service use. Health Inequalities Monitoring series, No. 2. Web.

Shi. et al., 2009. Male And Female Adult population Health Status in China: Across-sectional National survey. Web.

Verbrugge, L.,1982. Sex Differentials in Health. Public Health Reports, Vol.97, No. 53, p. 437.

Walker, L , Flood, M., & Wedster, K., 2009. Violence Against Women: A Key Determinant of Health and Well-being. In Keleher,H&Macdougall, C ( eds ), Understanding Health. South Melbourne: Victoria Publishing.

Women Health Advisor., 2009. Weill Cornell Medical College. Iris Cantor Women Health Center. Vol. 1524, No. 881x, pp. 2.

World Health Organisation., 2002. Integrating Gender Perspectives in the Work of WHO. Web.

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