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Gender differences in illhealth in Finland: patterns, magnitude and change

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  • Lahelma, Eero
  • Martikainen, Pekka
  • Rahkonen, Ossi
  • Silventoinen, Karri

Abstract

The common wisdom about gender differences in illhealth has been encapsulated in the phrase ''women are sicker, but men die quicker''. Recently this wisdom has been increasingly questioned. The purpose of this study is first to analyse the patterns and magnitude of gender differences across various indicators of illhealth; second to examine changes over time in these differences and third to assess whether sociodemographic and socioeconomic, family status and social network determinants have any bearing on the differences. The data derive from nationally representative 1986 and 1994 Surveys on Living Conditions in Finland. Women showed poorer health for five out of eight indicators analysed; that is somatic symptoms, mental symptoms, disability among those 50 years or older, long-standing illness and limiting long-standing illness were more prevalent among women than men. Male excess was found for perceived health below good and extremely limiting long-standing illness among those 50 years or older. However, the male excess was statistically significant only for poor perceived health among those 50 years or older. Adjusting for a number of suggested determinants of health had a negligible effect on gender differences. Further analyses showed that gender differences in illhealth remained largely stable over the eight year study period which saw a steep increase of unemployment for both genders. Only in the case of mental and somatic symptoms have gender differences declined, with a simultaneous increase in the prevalence of such symptoms. Otherwise gender differences in illhealth turned out to be resistant to the deep labour market crisis over this relatively short period of time. Although women had poorer health than men for a number of health indicators, we also find gender equality and even male excess for some indicators. Furthermore, the results suggest that a male excess in illhealth is likely to be found with more severe domains of illhealth among elderly people.

Suggested Citation

  • Lahelma, Eero & Martikainen, Pekka & Rahkonen, Ossi & Silventoinen, Karri, 1999. "Gender differences in illhealth in Finland: patterns, magnitude and change," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 7-19, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:48:y:1999:i:1:p:7-19
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Chun, Heeran & Khang, Young-Ho & Kim, Il-Ho & Cho, Sung-Il, 2008. "Explaining gender differences in ill-health in South Korea: The roles of socio-structural, psychosocial, and behavioral factors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(6), pages 988-1001, September.
    2. Caroli, Eve & Weber-Baghdiguian, Lexane, 2016. "Self-reported health and gender: The role of social norms," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 153(C), pages 220-229.
    3. Torsheim, Torbjørn & Ravens-Sieberer, Ulrike & Hetland, Jorn & Välimaa, Raili & Danielson, Mia & Overpeck, Mary, 2006. "Cross-national variation of gender differences in adolescent subjective health in Europe and North America," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(4), pages 815-827, February.
    4. Koopmans, Gerrit T. & Lamers, Leida M., 2007. "Gender and health care utilization: The role of mental distress and help-seeking propensity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(6), pages 1216-1230, March.
    5. Stafford, M. & Cummins, S. & Macintyre, S. & Ellaway, A. & Marmot, M., 2005. "Gender differences in the associations between health and neighbourhood environment," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(8), pages 1681-1692, April.

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    Keywords

    Gender Illhealth Finland;

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