Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Public Health

Gender Differences in the Influence of Economic, Lifestyle, and Psychosocial Factors on Later-Life Health

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Public Health

Gender Differences in the Influence of Economic, Lifestyle, and Psychosocial Factors on Later-Life Health

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Background: Gender differences in exposure to social resources play a significant role in influencing gender inequalities in health. A related question - and our focus - asks whether these inequalities are also influenced by gendered vulnerabilities to social forces. Specifically, this paper examines the differential impact of social forces on the health of elderly (65+) men and women.

Methods: Multiple linear regression analysis is used to estimate gender differences in the influence of socioeconomic, lifestyle, and psychosocial factors on both self-rated health and overall functional health using data from the 1994-1995 National Population Health Survey.

Results: Key findings include: 1) the relationship between income and health is significant for older women only, whereas the converse holds for education; 2) having an acceptable body weight is positively associated with health for elderly women only; and 3) stress-related factors are stronger determinants of health for older women.

Interpretation: Our findings shed light on the processes of healthy aging for men and women, and suggest that interventions to improve the health of elderly Canadians need to be gender-specific.

La traduction du resume se trouve a la fin de l'article.

Gender-based inequalities in health have been consistently documented.1-5 Since gender is a measure of both biological/genetic and social differences, it is likely that health inequalities between men and women reflect both sex-related biological and social factors.6-8 Regarding the latter, gender disparities in health are often linked to differential exposure related to three factors. One, health is directly affected by socioeconomic status (SES).9-12 Socioeconomic factors also help to mediate the relationship between gender and health. For example, the differential socioeconomic experiences of men and women in terms of labour force participation, financial independence, and domestic responsibilities contribute to gender differences in health status throughout life.13-16

Two, exercise, diet, smoking, and alcohol consumption are behavioural factors commonly cited as major social determinants of health, especially in later life since the effects of lifestyle behaviours cumulate over the life course.17 Differences in health status between men and women have been attributed to gender-specific health- and longevity-related behaviours. For example, women are more likely than men to describe themselves as non-drinkers and non-smokers, yet are less physically active.18 Women also tend to be more concerned about health and to use the healthcare system more extensively.19

Three, psychosocial factors such as social support, chronic stress, and stressful life events influence health. Low levels of social integration/support can negatively affect mental and physical health.20,21 Since women live longer, they are more likely to not have a partner and the consequent informal caregiving and support (both emotional and financial). They are also more likely to experience chronic stress and stressful life events.22

Research question

Gender differences in exposure to social (i.e., socioeconomic, lifestyle, and psychosocial) resources play a significant role in influencing gender inequalities in health. A related question - and our focus - asks whether these inequalities are also influenced by gendered vulnerabilities to social forces; in other words, do social factors have a differential impact on the health of men and women? For example, do men and women with similar levels of stress, or who have experienced the same stressful life event, have comparable health status? This research contributes to the Canadian literature by examining gender differences in vulnerability to the health consequences of high/low SES, "good"/ "bad" health behaviours, and high/low psychosocial resources among elderly (65+) persons.

METHODS

Data

We use data from the cross-sectional household component of the 1994-1995 National Population Health Survey (NPHS), which covers a representative sample of private household residents (excluding those on Reserves and Canadian Forces Bases and in some remote areas in Quebec and Ontario). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.