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Women, men, and health 

Women, men, and health
Women, men, and health

Sarah Payne

and Lesley Doyal

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date: 16 May 2022

This chapter explores the ways in which sex and gender influence health. Figures for mortality and life expectancy reveal important differences between men and women in their risk of death and in the causes of death. In virtually every country around the world, men have a lower life expectancy than women, although the gap in life expectancy is narrower in low-income countries. Similarly, women and men have different patterns of ill health, and again, the gap varies between countries. Both sex and gender play a part in these variations. Sex, or biological factors, influences women’s and men’s risks of different diseases and health conditions, including reproductive disorders and diseases affected by the immune system and genetic factors, as well as survival following diagnosis. However, socially constructed gender-linked factors are also important. Gender affects behaviours such as smoking and alcohol use, which increase the risk of certain conditions, and also affects exposure to social and environmental risk factors, including paid and unpaid work, caring responsibilities, poverty and poor environmental conditions, and the risk of sexual and physical violence.

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