Why Sex and Gender matter to health

NHS evidence has shown that treating women and men the same, without considering the differences between them, means that underlying gender-related links to health problems are ignored and patients’ health needs are not met. For example-

  • One in four women are likely to experience domestic abuse over their life course and that prevalence rates for child sexual abuse are estimated at around 21% of girls and 7% of boys.
  • Men are more likely to participate in risk-taking behaviour which leads to premature mortality and to use their power to commit acts of violence and abuse which affect themselves and women and children of both sexes.
  • Men are also less likely than women to participate in health improvement activity or to present to primary care in the early stages of illness.
  • Where men have experienced abuse in childhood, this experience can manifest itself in a range of health and social problems in both childhood and adulthood but is often not identified as part of medical presentations.
  • Women still tend to have multiple social roles as employees, as carers and as the primary managers of households. This imposes stresses that can have physical and psychological impacts on their health.
  • Some diseases have been seen solely as ‘women’s’ or ‘men’s’ diseases due to gendered biases in medical research, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment (e.g. heart disease – leading cause of mortality in UK women but still seen as a ‘male disease’)

Other examples of where gender expectations affect health are:

  • In NHSGGC, like the whole of Scotland, women are between two and two and a half times more likely to report experiencing depression and anxiety than men.
  • Suicide rates are almost three times higher in men than in women.
  • Men are more likely than women to die of injuries outside the home.
  • The gap between women's and men's smoking rates is changing, with more young girls taking up the habit than boys.
  • Young men aged 16-24 are most at risk of becoming a victim of violent crime
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