Gender as a Determinant of Health

Gender refers to socially determined variations between sexes. Gender inequality refers to an ideology that, male and females are not equal. This impacts an individual's living experience. These variations arise from distinctions in physiological, biology as well as cultural norms. Studies have indicated that health inequalities arise from unfair gender relations. However, the existence of gender inequality in health is a very complex issue. As per studies in various states, women, however, live longer compared to men with an average of 5 years longer. Although, women get much “sicker” compared to men. The study also suggests that, with a decrease of social discrimination, female’s life expectancy increases. Besides, men are prone to higher fatal illnesses rates. This is explained by the fact that men are more exposed to toxic substances due to occupational exposure resulting in less life expectancy (Dune & Liamputtong, 2019). The variation in gender which result to inequalities includes; access to resources, power inequalities, opportunity inequalities as well as life experience (Bailey-McHale et al., 2020). World Health Organization (WHO) also suggests that gender inequality results in health risks for females globally (Marmot & Allen, 2014). In a report by WHO, Manandhar et al., (2018), report that at least half of the global population- 7.3 billion do not receive the essential health services. All these unmet needs arise due to general health inequalities, however, gender is the leading cause. This paper explores gender as a health inequality.


Gender affect heath because, some health issues are closely linked to a certain gender. However, most male health risks are related to behavior. For instance, men engage in behaviors like smoking, alcohol intake and other activities which result in higher rates of disease and injury. Men are also revealed to eat less healthful diets. However, scholars appreciate that hormones, anatomy as well as genes also play roles in the increased men's risk for diseases like cancer such as throat cancer and prostate cancer. Another study in 2013, women often develop colorectal cancer five years later compared to men. In this case, women develop tumors on the right side of the colon, while in men, they are on the left (Sameer, 2013).

Additionally, in most health system one gender is given more privilege compared to the others (Bailey-McHale et al., 2020). Studies reveal that, in most societies, women are accorded lower status compared to their male counterparts. Similarly in the health sector of most developing countries such as Namibia, men are given more priority compared to females hence health inequality. Thus is also linked to low education, income and few employment opportunities for women (Namasivayam et al., 2012). However, these inequalities are on the decline as more campaign are based on promoting gender equality and women empowerment.

Furthermore, intentional targeting a specific group to achieve certain policy needs affect health. Currently, many health policies and programs are targeting a certain gender. For instance, women's health - primary Care is a UK Women's Health program which is designed for the advancement of women's health. It has a comprehensive primary care service for women in all life stages -mammography, research and education which are all related to the health of women. However, other policies such as the Equality Act 2006 and the Equality Act (EA) 2016 have been implemented to protect all individuals from all forms of discrimination across Great Britain.

Nevertheless, men and women have specific needs hence the variation in health systems. Studies indicate that males have higher fatal illnesses rates. Moreover, they have more exposure to toxic occupation as well as higher injuries rate. For instance, men are mostly smokers and have a high intake of alcohol. On the other hand, women give birth therefore maternity. All these cases require to be addressed differently hence the variation.

On the other hand, there are various reasons why gender affect health. First, society’s gender culture, norms, relation and roles affect access to health care. In most communities, men and women are not equal. Gender inequality is experienced differently across different cultures. Marxist feminism highlight why these differences arise in health. The theory suggests that women are slaves within the family and offer "free labor" in the home. This suggests how women are exploited and the inequality which exists in the community as well as the health systems especially in developing and marginalized countries. However, the liberal feminism theory highlight that, all people are equal and should not be denied equality of opportunity because of gender since inequality is a denial of human rights (Hawkes & Buse, 2013). Therefore, Marxist theory explains why gender affects health.

These inequalities also arise due to women's and men's specific needs. Men are more intemperate compared to women. Studies indicate that almost 50% of men’s deaths yearly can be prevented via changes in personal habits such as violence, stress, diet, and occupational hazards. This means that men need more intervention to prevent injury-related issues (Hawkes & Buse, 2013). On the other hand, women become sicker more often and are more likely to compare men to use health services. However, one of the most popular reasons for this attendance is during their reproductive years and pregnancy. This indicates that the various needs in various groups necessitate the variation.

Policies and programs to benefits and target specific gender to achieve certain policy needs. Studies indicate that policy-makers often assume that gendered approaches to improvement of health are exclusively about women other than both gender. Countries like Brazil, Australia as well as Ireland have attempted to address male's burden of ill health via the adoption of national, male-centered strategies. These policies are inequality basis which is again it’s the liberal feminism ideology (Hawkes & Buse, 2013).

Male are sixty percent more likely to develop non-sex-specific cancer compared to women and are seventy percent more likely to die from such disorders. The world-leading cause of cancer includes cigarette smoking- 19%, obesity, and overweight – 7.8% and alcohol intake – 5.6% (McGuire, 2016). However, studies indicate that most of these causes are preventable. Some of the avoidable factors include tobacco use, physical exercise, unhealthy diet, alcohol use, ionizing and ultraviolet radiation. As suggested earlier, men generally are involved in risky behavior such as smoking, being exposed to ionization and other occupational risks. This can be explained by Darwin's "Idiotic Risks" theory which suggests that some gender men are more likely to be admitted to an emergency department compared to females for an accidental injuries (Lendrem et al., 2014). However, it is important to note that, most of these causes are originally linked to the male gender as per the society such as tobacco smoking and alcohol intake. Moreover, the breadwinner model which suggest that men take primary responsibility for earning reveal why men take a job with more occupational hazards (von Gleichen & Seeleib-Kaiser, 2018).

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Namasivayam, A., Osuorah, D.C., Syed, R. and Antai, D., 2012. The role of gender inequities in women’s access to reproductive health care: a population-level study of Namibia, Kenya, Nepal, and India. International journal of women's health, 4, p.351.

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