Gender Matters in Health
As with sex, gender can have a profound influence on health and well-being. Sometimes the impact of gender is direct and obvious. For example, ideals of female beauty in China led to the painful and disabling practice of foot binding.
Different ideals of female beauty in Europe encouraged unhealthy corsetting.
But gender also affects health in ways that are less obvious or direct. For example, expectations that women will care for others — often without compensation or relief — means that they are more likely than men to suffer stress and physical injury and are more likely than men to lack resources to pay for their own care. Similarly, ideals of masculinity can encourage men to ignore pain or other symptoms of illness, or to “tough it out”. As a result, they are less likely than women to consult a health care practitioner and to get treatment. For the same reason, males are more likely than females to engage in risky behaviours, such as smoking and drinking or extreme sports, that can affect their health. In other words, gender norms, roles and expectations affect who gets or stays healthy as well as who gets or does not get care.