Does gender inequality increase mens' health risk ?

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

#Gender inequity refers to systematic differences in the political, economic, and social circumstances between women and men. Because of these differences, men do mostly benefit. Yet, a growing number of studies suggest gender inequity actually increases men’s health risks. Gender inequity and similar measures have been associated with mens' heightened risk of mortality, violent death, poorer self-rated health, and depression.

Identifying gender #inequity as a potential contributor to men’s health risks offers the prospect of better approaches to improve the health of men. For example, men in Europe have a higher overall rate of

hospital admission than women for all principal diseases and health problems. Furthermore, men in middle age across some of the world’s most populous countries have over 4 times the risk of coronary heart disease mortality. #Biological factors are likely to play a role in this pattern, but the variability of men’s health across different contexts suggests that #social factors are of fundamental importance.


The most developed theoretical approach for explaining how gender inequity impacts on men’s health is masculinities and health theory. It links the social norms arising from unequal power relations between #women and men and amongst men to a range of social processes that shape the social environment in ways that impact on health risks.

In particular, it argues that men’s poor health can be traced to the gender related ideals and practices used by men to justify and contest their social position. The forms of masculinity often highlight dominant ideals such as strength, power and lack of vulnerability and are carried out through risk-taking behavior and a lack of care for health. This can manifest in behaviors such as smoking, overconsumption of alcohol, poor dietary habits and reduced engagement with health services.


A lot of studies have investigated the relationship between masculinity and health. Many have found aspects of masculinity to be associated with poor health behaviors, poor health-related beliefs, and health outcomes. An analysis of 74 studies using the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory found the norms of self-reliance, power over women and playboy to be strongly and consistently associated with poorer mental health and psychological health seeking.

The authors underscore the idea regarding playboy and power over women, that sexism is not merely a social injustice, but it also has deleterious mental health-related consequences for those who embrace such attitudes. Yet, further empirical work is required to specify which norms of masculinity affect the health. It is possible that only some aspects of masculinity are important, and that specific aspects of masculinity may be related to specific health behaviors.

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