Gender Health Gap Study Finds Women Live More Years In Ill-Health Than Men

"Females have longer lives but live more years in poor health."
Gender health gapGetty

Women may be living longer than men but we’re experiencing more years of poor health, according to a new study published in the Lancet Public Health Journal.

The study, an analysis of of the global gender health gap, found that there are significant differences between women’s and men’s health and a lack of progress in bridging that gap.

By examining the impacts of the worlds’ 20 leading causes of disease, the study found that non-fatal conditions, including musculoskeletal problems, mental health issues and headache conditions, disproportionally affect women.

Men, on the other hand, are largely affected by conditions that cause an early death, including cardiovascular diseases, respiratory and liver diseases and road injuries.

Women's health compared to men's.
(Credit: Getty)

Out of the conditions examined, the study found that the biggest contributors to women’s pain and poor health were low back pain, depressive disorders, headache disorders, anxiety disorders, bone and muscle disorders, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, as well as HIV and AIDs.

However the study didn’t include sex-specific diseases, such as gynaecological conditions or prostate cancers.

 “This report clearly shows that over the past 30 years global progress on health has been uneven,” says the study’s senior author, Dr Luisa Sorio Flor.

“Females have longer lives but live more years in poor health, with limited progress made in reducing the burden of conditions leading to illness and disability, underscoring the urgent need for greater attention to non-fatal consequences that limit women’s physical and mental function, especially at older ages. Similarly, males are experiencing a much higher and growing burden of disease with fatal consequences.”

The study’s co-lead author Gabriela Gil echoed a similar sentiment, stating, “It’s clear that women’s healthcare needs to extend well beyond areas that health systems and research funding have prioritised to date, such as sexual and reproductive concerns.

“Conditions that disproportionately impact females in all world regions, such as depressive disorders, are significantly underfunded compared with the massive burden they exert, with only a small proportion of government health expenditure globally earmarked for mental health conditions.

“Future health system planning must encompass the full spectrum of issues affecting females throughout their lives, especially given the higher level of disability they endure and the growing ratio of females to males in ageing populations.”

Sorio Flor also placed an emphasis of doing the study now, at a time when women’s health is finally getting more attention and the discrepancies are being pointed out.

“The timing is right for this study and call to action – not only because of where the evidence is now, but because Covid-19 has starkly reminded us that sex differences can profoundly impact health outcomes.

“One key point the study highlights is how females and males differ in many biological and social factors that fluctuate and, sometimes, accumulate over time, resulting in them experiencing health and disease differently at each stage of life and across world regions.

“The challenge now is to design, implement and evaluate sex- and gender-informed ways of preventing and treating the major causes of morbidity and premature mortality from an early age and across diverse populations”

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