How gender influences health: women live longer but with a worse quality of life | Health

Sex and gender shape health: Simply being male or female interacts with other variables, such as race, socioeconomic status, age, or sexual orientation, and results in a diverse health trajectory with increased risk of suffer from one disease or another and different. life expectancies. New American research, published last Wednesday in Lancet Public Health, delves into these differences, and concludes that men experience a greater degree of health decline and have a greater burden of diseases that cause premature death, such as cancer or heart problems. Women, on the other hand, suffer from many more pathologies that harm their health and reduce their quality of life: low back pain, depression and anxiety, for example, are especially common among women. The authors of the article warn that these divergences in health outcomes between men and women imply “diverse health needs” and emphasize the “urgent need” to implement health policies based on age and sex.

The researchers relied on data from the 2021 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study, which regularly quantifies health loss caused by more than 300 diseases in about 200 countries. In this specific case, they focused on twenty pathologies: those that generate the greatest loss of health in people over 10 years of age. For example, heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, cirrhosis, back pain, depression and anxiety, tuberculosis, road traffic injuries. , Alzheimer’s, diabetes and HIV, among others. To measure the impact of these ailments on health, researchers used disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), an indicator that measures the degree of full, healthy life lost due to illness, associated poor health, or premature death.

“The results of our research reveal substantial differences in general health between women and men, with little progress in reducing these health differences between 1990 and 2021,” the study authors state. The rates of years of healthy life lost due to illness were higher in men in 13 of the 20 pathologies analyzed: Covid, for example, or ischemic heart disease, affected men much more than women. The seven conditions with the highest DALY rates in women were low back pain, depression, headaches, anxiety, musculoskeletal disorders, dementia, and HIV.

Luisa Sorio Flor, one of the authors of the study and researcher at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, highlights that “women and men experience health and illness differently throughout their lives.” ”. “Our findings indicate that, in general, men experience a greater degree of health loss. We observe that women disproportionately suffer from conditions that primarily lead to morbidity that, while not necessarily fatal, significantly decrease quality of life. On the contrary, men have a greater burden of diseases that more frequently cause premature mortality. “Therefore, our study highlights that focusing solely on mortality or morbidity would fail to tell the full story of health gaps between women and men.”

The influence of gender roles

The authors do not delve into the factors that influence these disparities, but Sorio Flor assures that their findings align with scientific literature that reflects how sex and gender impact health. Evidence suggests, for example, that differences in the prevalence of mental disorders or back pain are due to a combination of biological and gender factors: “From a biological perspective, different physiological responses to pain compared to men and factors Hormonal changes have been linked to variations in musculoskeletal and mood disorders among women. On the gender side, social and cultural factors play an important role: the disproportionate burden of household chores, care responsibilities, and social expectations imposed on women can both contribute to physical stress, leading to conditions such as back pain. , as well as psychological stress, which exacerbates mental health problems,” says Sorio Flor.

In addition, gender roles and behaviors related to them can influence health outcomes, says the researcher. “Specifically, traffic injuries serve as a pertinent example that illustrates how social expectations and gender norms can affect health disparities. Men are more likely to engage in behaviors perceived as risky or aligned with traditional notions of masculinity, such as smoking, excessive drinking, and aggressive driving. These activities are not only culturally reinforced in many contexts, but are also linked to higher rates of accidents and chronic diseases. The gap in the burden of road traffic injuries, which emerges at a young age between genders, highlights the role of risk behaviors,” she explains.

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