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Gender and Health.Lecture. Notes.doc

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Ryerson University
Family Studies
FNF 100
Dan Mahoney

Gender and Health Does Gender Play a Role in Our Understanding of Reported Health and Well-being? *Gender plays a big role in health & well being. Gender differences are pronounced enough that they stand up to scrutiny. Why Study Gender and Health  Some of the most striking and persistent differences concern’s men’s and women’s health and mortality  Adult’s rates of chronic, disease, disability and mortality are much higher than children’s (men and women >18 yrs have greater access to health)  Connection between health and gender is social (based on societal norms & expectations), political (based on reproduction, power privilege status), psychological (we have diff sensibilities on how we accept other & how they accept us) and behavioural (based on our performance/actions)  More importantly, it is personal and cumulative *mortality (death), morbidity (illness) *how ppl experience health today is cumulative & personalized What is the connection between Gender and Health?  Behaviour, Social Support and Socialization are deeply affected by gender roles  Gender roles have important consequences in determining our health and well-being *are gender expectations too high? Social science thinking and research on gender and health continues understand what these differences speak to… Defining Gender… -gender is a term used to describe the socially defined notion of what it means to be male & female -gender determines how girls & boys are socialized & shapes differences in behaviour b/w the sexes -gender also predicts the kinds of roles & role expectations in any given society (eg. women=caring) Masculinities and Femininities  Masculinities and femininities can be seen as “cultural scripts” – Associates male and females with binary categories (gender is either/or, mutually exclusive categories but this isn’t really true anymore b/c there are gays, transgender, etc – Accentuates the power relations between the sexes (gender is a precursor for power relations b/w the sexes) – Gender is a social construction – meanings evolving over time (gender is a learned process), historically contextual (reflects at what’s going on during the time period; looks at economic, political & social factors), constructed differently in different social and cultural settings (gender is played out differently based on race, class, cultural context) Gender vs. Sex -the struggle to distinguish gender from sex w/ gender being seen as the cultural expectations assoc’d w/ biological categories, male vs. female Gender Differences in Reported Health  Current Epidemiological data suggests: – Differences in mortality rates between men and women (men are at more risk for death than women for all ages)  Women tend to live longer than men  Female life expectancy is seven years longer than males  Risk of death is are higher for males than females at all ages *men & women experience life differently Men’s Health…  Men show health disadvantage in fewer but more serious respects: – Suffer 50-60% more injuries at ages 17-44  Men exceed women in rates of: – Paralysis, loss of extremities – Visual and hearing impairment – Higher prevalence rates coronary heart disease – Occupational/work related accidents - causing disability and chronic health problems *men tend to occupy jobs that constitutes a higher risk of injury. This applies to women but to a much lesser extent. Men have more risk for health disadvantages due to their risky behaviour. *(Table) Differences in suicide rates (men tend to be more successful in attempting suicide vs. women), men are more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents, homicide, etc. In older stages of life, men & women tend to experience similar health conditions Sex Differences in Incidences of Acute Conditions…  Overall 20 to 30% difference overall in nonfatal illness  Women routinely report higher rates of acute and chronic illness in adulthood in all ages  Women report higher rates of: – Infective/parasitic diseases – Respiratory conditions – Digestive systems conditions – Reproductive conditions *women are more likely not to die from illnesses but suffer from it throughout their life. Women’s Health  Long-term disabilities are more prevalent among women – especially in middle and late life  Women are prescribed more prescription medicine per year than men at all age – but especially in young reproductive years – drug and over-the-counter medication is about 50% more than men  Use health services twice as often  Poorer self evaluation of health Gender and Health Over the Life Course…  Size and components of sex differentials change over the life course: – Gaps tend to be largest in young adulthood and smallest for elderly people – Adults females (17- 44) reproduction events make a difference (reproductive advantage during 17-44yrs is important for woman) – In older ages, women continue to experience health issues, but males catch up to them in health services because of severe health problems In sum, women have more frequent illness and disability, but their problems are typically not life threatening. In contrast, men suffer more from life threatening diseases, and these cause more permanent disability and earlier death for them. (ie. women tend to live longer b/c they encounter health problems that are not as life threatening) Is it Really That Simple? -women morbidity rates are not universal across all health problems -direction & magnitude of sex differences in health vary according to a particular condition/ symptom in question. -women tend to report higher levels of psychological manifestation than physical symptoms which is why they are more likely to be prescribed w/ psychotropic drugs, eg. antidepressants. Physicians are being presumptuous about their conditions & the amt of medication they need. Women are more expressive of their health conditions and depending on how they get interpreted by physicians they could get the right treatment/ get misdiagnosed. Stereotypes of Sex Differences  Important not to stereotype sex differences in health  Men and women suffer from: – Same types of health problems – Same impact of acute and chronic illness and disability  What distinguishes men and women are the rates or frequency of the problem *women report/articulate better their health problems vs. men; it’s the severity, frequency & articulation of the problem that distinguishes men & women stereotypes in health. Why is this so?—why do men & women experience & report health differently?  The reasons why women have higher rates of morbidity is not completely understood – and at best, conflicting  One theory suggests: – Women are more sensitive to bodily discomforts, and more willing to report symptoms of distress and discomfort  Another theory suggests a more complex p
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