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Gender and health: reassessing patterns and explanations


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  • McDonough, Peggy
  • Walters, Vivienne
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    Recent research on gender and health challenges the prevailing notion of women's generalized health disadvantage by revealing a more variable pattern of gender differences in health. As such differences come to be comprehended as more complex than previously thought, there is a need to reassess the pathways linking gender and health. Using data from a Canadian national probability sample, we examine: (1) gender differences in distress, self-rated health, chronic conditions, restricted activity and heavy drinking; and (2) the role of gender-based differential exposure and vulnerability to chronic stress and life events in explaining observed differences. We find that women report more distress and chronic conditions than men, but gender differences are reversed for heavy drinking, and negligible for self-rated health and restricted activity. Although women reported more chronic stress and life events, their greater exposure accounted for only some of the gender disparity in health, and only for distress. Differential vulnerability to stressors played no role in explaining gender differences in health. These findings raise questions about a gendered, generalized health response to the vicissitudes of life and suggest the need for further theoretical and empirical exploration of "gendered" experiences and their pathways to health.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 52 (2001)
    Issue (Month): 4 (February)
    Pages: 547-559

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:52:y:2001:i:4:p:547-559

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    Keywords: Gender differences Morbidity Stress Vulnerability Canada;


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    Cited by:
    1. Kirsi Talala & Taina Huurre & Hillevi Aro & Tuija Martelin & Ritva Prättälä, 2008. "Socio-demographic Differences in Self-reported Psychological Distress Among 25- to 64-Year-Old Finns," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 86(2), pages 323-335, April.
    2. Daoud, Nihaya & Shankardass, Ketan & O’Campo, Patricia & Anderson, Kim & Agbaria, Ayman K., 2012. "Internal displacement and health among the Palestinian minority in Israel," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(8), pages 1163-1171.
    3. Jinkook Lee & Regina A. Shih & Kevin Feeney & Kenneth M. Langa, 2011. "Cognitive Health of Older Indians: Individual and Geographic Determinants of Female Disadvantage," Working Papers 889, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
    4. Chiara Rollero & Silvia Gattino & Norma De Piccoli, 2014. "A Gender Lens on Quality of Life: The Role of Sense of Community, Perceived Social Support, Self-Reported Health and Income," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 116(3), pages 887-898, May.
    5. Enzo Grossi & Angelo Compare & Cristina Lonardi & Renata Cerutti & Edward Callus & Mauro Niero, 2013. "Gender-related Effect of Cultural Participation in Psychological Well-being: Indications from the Well-being Project in the Municipality of Milan," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 114(2), pages 255-271, November.
    6. Ellen M. Gee & Karen M. Kobayashi & Steven G. Prus, 2003. "Examining the "Healthy Immigrant Effect" in Later Life: Findings from the Canadian Community Health Survey," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 98, McMaster University.
    7. Steven G. Prus & Ellen Gee, 2002. "Gender Differences in the Influence of Economic, Lifestyle, and Psychosocial Factors on Later-life Health," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 76, McMaster University.
    8. Dahlin, Johanna & Härkönen, Juho, 2013. "Cross-national differences in the gender gap in subjective health in Europe: Does country-level gender equality matter?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 24-28.
    9. Katarina Boye, 2009. "Relatively Different? How do Gender Differences in Well-Being Depend on Paid and Unpaid Work in Europe?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 93(3), pages 509-525, September.


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