STUDY: Women say their health has worsened while men say theirs has improved over the last few decades


The stresses of modern life have weighed heavily on the health of women. Such were the findings of researchers from Umeå University and Region Norrbotten who’ve kept track of health trends among querymen and women from 1990 to 2014. As reported by Science Daily, while women felt as though their health only worsened in time, men self-rated their health as being better than ever.

These findings come from a long-term survey of 1,811 people aged 25 to 34, all of whom were part of the “Multinational MONItoring of trends and determinants in CArdiovascular disease” (MONICA) study in Northern Sweden. The participants were tasked with answering questionnaires that included queries about self-rated health, which was part of the program.

According to the researchers, about 8.5 percent of women from 1990 self-rated their own health as being poorer than that of their peers. Come 2014, this figure had risen to 20 percent. Conversely, the men in the study self-rated their health as being far better at the end of the study than at the beginning, going from 8.5 to 18.3 percent. Moreover, the women who felt healthier and better than their peers were at 4.5 percent in 1990, peaked in 2009 at 18.4 percent, but dipped once again in 2014 at 6.4 percent.

“In recent years, public debate has raised the issue of increased illness and sick leaves among women. Our study now shows, for the first time, that there are corresponding health trends also among young women,” said study co-author and researcher at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine Annika Forssén.

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“A generally worsened self-rated health among young people most likely suggests increased risk of illness both in the short and long term,” added Göran Waller, Forssén’s co-author and fellow researcher. “The results show that gender equality efforts, and especially the promotion of equal rights to health for men and women, need significant revisions.”

Of the possible reasons why women felt as though their health grew worse with time, Forssén, Waller, and their colleagues have speculated that these causes may be:

  • Absence of equality in their private lives
  • Expectations of women to “manage everything”, or to fulfill two conflicting yet coinciding societal norm systems, namely traditional gender roles and equality.
  • General societal expectations, including but not limited to the insistence on being socially active, to being physically attractive.
  • Harsher working conditions in professions dominated by women.
  • Increased likelihood of stress of conscience and burnouts, also known as stress-related exhaustion disorder.
  • Relying on achievements and expected consumption patterns to serve as the basis for self-confidence.
  • Violence against women, as perpetuated by men.

Adding to this, the researchers have cited numerous explanations behind men feeling as though their health improved, such as:

  • Men being valued more in the labor market, regardless of their education levels.
  • Greater variations and less rigidity in the so-called “masculine role” thanks to equality becoming the norm.
  • More equal responsibility for the household and for children, which the researchers noted was more beneficial to the health of men.

“Women’s experience of gender inequality both at work and at home, create tiredness, tension and worry, as well as feelings of personal failure. Women in Sweden also seem to worry more than men about other large collective questions, such as the climate threat. To our understanding the differences in perceived equality must not be trivialized or disregarded,” wrote the researchers in their study.

Visit WomensHealth.news for more stories covering any and all health-related news on women.

Sources include:

ScienceDaily.com

Journals.PLOS.org



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