Gender and health revision

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Explanations for differences in mortality and morbidity
Why don't men live as long as women? Why are women more likely to be ill than men?
(1) Biomedical explanation ­ boys are genetically
and physically the weaker sex at birth. They
experience higher infant mortality than female babies.
Women also have a better genetic resistance to heart
disease than men.
(2) Social Constructionist argument ­ focuses (1) Social Constructionist argument notes that
on how masculinity and femininity is constructed women are socialised into managing families and
during childhood socialisation and how this experience consequently they are encouraged by their mothers to be
impacts on health. There are a number of components more aware of health and health care matters. Rates of
to this explanation. illness are worked out by looking at the annual number of
(a) O'Brien - males are brought up to think that visits to doctors, hospitals etc. Women are therefore more
masculinity means being tough and this may mean likely than men to be counted as `ill' because they are more
shrugging off the symptoms of illness and only visiting willing than men to report physical and mental health
the doctor as a last resort. This may mean that problems.
disease may not be caught in time, e.g. stomach
(b) Males are brought up to be more aggressive and to
take more risks than females. Risk-taking behaviour
may be demonstrated by men in several areas, e.g. (i)
high levels of alcohol consumption ­ in 2006, the male
death rate (18.3 deaths per 100,000) was more than
twice the rate for females (8.8) and males accounted
for two-thirds of alcohol related deaths; (ii) Men are
more likely to engage in drug use compared with
women; (iii) males accounted for over 75% of all

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Males are socialised into not showing their
emotions and consequently they have few outlets for
getting rid of stress compared with women who can
cry, confide their feelings with friends, seek
counselling etc. Some men may see showing anxiety
etc as a sign of weakness. Men consequently are more
likely to die from more stress-related illness compared
with women.…read more

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Women therefore suffer the
lead to eventual cancer or respiratory related deaths; effects of poverty more directly than men.
(iv) men retire later than women (65 years compared (b) The family environment can create the potential for
with 60 years). ill-health because (i) women often experience a `TRIPLE
(b) Women's family roles as mothers may contribute BURDEN' ­ they often work, usually in stressful low-paid
to their longer life expectancy because their nurturing jobs as well as being mainly responsible for housework and
role, i.e.…read more


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