Gender inequalities in health: A matter of policies

July 28, 2014

A new study of the European project SOPHIE has evaluated the relationship between the type of family policies and gender inequalities in health in Europe. The results show that countries with traditional family policies (central and southern Europe) and countries with contradictory policies (Eastern Europe), present higher inequalities in self-perceived health, i.e. women reported poorer health than men. Health inequalities are especially remarkable in Southern Europe countries, where women present a 27% higher risk of having poor health compared to men.

The authors of this study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, have analysed data from 26 European countries, extracted from the European Social Survey 2010. The survey collected data from 28,655 women and 23,782 men that answered the question "How is your health in general? Would you say it is very good, good, fair, bad or very bad", which gives a measure of the self-perceived health. Previous studies have demonstrated that this question reflects overall health status, and has been associated with, for example, chronic diseases and death.

The countries analysed were classified into five categories according to their model of family policy, which influences the situation of women with respect to paid and unpaid work. The Dual-earner model (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) encourages women's continuous labour force participation and attempts to redistribute caring work within the family. The Traditional family policies model presumes that women have the primary responsibility for care at home, with different nuances in Central (Belgium, Germany, France and Netherlands) and Southern (Cyprus, Spain, Greece and Portugal) countries. The Market-oriented model (Switzerland, United Kingdom and Ireland) is characterized by a strong male breadwinner model in which the market is the main institution governing individuals' and families' access to resources. Finally, the Contradictory model (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Slovakia and Ukraine) preserves a highly gendered division of labour but also support the dual-earner family.

The results obtained show that there exist gender inequalities in health in countries with Traditional and Contradictory family policies, less oriented to gender equality and assuming that women are mostly responsible of domestic work and family care. Women have a 27% higher probability of having poor health in Traditional Southern countries, 13% in Traditional Central countries and 8% in Contradictory countries. On the opposite situation we can find the Dual-earner and the Market-oriented countries, where the difference in "poor health" drops off to a non-significant 5 and 4%, respectively.

According to the lead author of the study, Laia Palència: "The Southern European countries have developed a family solidarity model where women have a main role as family caregivers and a secondary role in the labour market, while services provision and financial governmental support are limited." At the opposite end are the Nordic countries, "where- Palència said -there is a higher State involvement in the care of children, the elderly and dependents through public services, which means that women have less family burden and a higher work engagement."

"The implementation of policies that promote equality between women and men, including family care policies, the promotion of access to the labour market or political representation by women, may have an effect in reducing gender inequalities in health," the research team noted.

Previous studies have shown that health depends mainly on the living and working conditions. It has also been widely reported that tend to have poorer self-perceived , despite having a longer life expectancy.

Explore further: An overview of drug approaches in Europe

More information: Social Science & Medicine Volume 117, September 2014, Pages 25–33ю DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.07.018

Related Stories

An overview of drug approaches in Europe

April 10, 2014
Countries in Europe, even neighbours, have vastly different approaches to combating drug abuse.

Parental leave policies best promote gender equity and well-being in women's health

January 15, 2014
Government policies that allow both parents to take time off after a child is born provide positive benefits for the physical and mental health of women, according to a literature review that looked at the influence of public ...

Spain's digital gender gap is larger than European average

December 7, 2011
Researchers at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) have compared internet use and frequency in Spain with the rest of the 31 European countries. Their results suggest that Spanish women use the internet less frequently ...

Cannabis use among teens is on the rise in some developing countries

November 22, 2013
It's common to associate cannabis use with affluent youth in wealthy societies. But the relationship between societal and family affluence and cannabis use appears to be changing. A study published online today in the scientific ...

Recommended for you

Junk food diet raises depression risk, researchers find

December 18, 2018
A diet of fast food, cakes and processed meat increases your risk of depression, according to researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Children of problem drinkers more likely to marry someone with a drinking problem: study

December 18, 2018
Children of parents who have alcohol use disorder are more likely to get married under the age of 25, less likely to get married later in life, and more likely to marry a person who has alcohol use disorder themselves, according ...

A co-worker's rudeness can affect your sleep—and your partner's, study finds

December 14, 2018
Rudeness. Sarcastic comments. Demeaning language. Interrupting or talking over someone in a meeting. Workplace incivilities such as these are becoming increasingly common, and a new study from Portland State University and ...

Study shows magnesium optimizes vitamin D status

December 14, 2018
A randomized trial by Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researchers indicates that magnesium optimizes vitamin D status, raising it in people with deficient levels and lowering it in people with high levels.

A holiday gift to primary care doctors: Proof of their time crunch

December 14, 2018
The average primary care doctor needs to work six more hours a day than they already do, in order to make sure their patients get all the preventive and early-detection care they want and deserve, a new study finds.

Teens get more sleep with later school start time, researchers find

December 12, 2018
When Seattle Public Schools announced that it would reorganize school start times across the district for the fall of 2016, the massive undertaking took more than a year to deploy. Elementary schools started earlier, while ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.