It has been widely reported in medical sociology or medical epidemiology that in industrialized countries males tend to die earlier than females but that females tend to have higher rates of morbidity. The excess of female over male morbidity in adulthood has been one of the most consistent findings in social science research on health and illness. Additionally, research also shows that women report higher rates of illness at all ages as well as describing higher rates of psychological malaise than men. However, can we certainly argue that gender differences in health in the developed world are so clear cut? Can we assume that gender differences described in one decade and in one culture are generalizable to other decades and other cultures? Would it be beneficial to continue exploring descriptive accounts of gender differences in health, or should we be concentrating on explanations for well-established differences?
This paper/presentation -by using examples from various research funded projects in the field of public health- would argue that gender differences in health as presented in much recent sociological and epidemiological literature are mainly explained through the lenses of commonly used measures (e.g., self-assessed health, aspects of mental health, use of health services, patients’ treatment etc) and often fail to take into account the complexities in patterns of gender differences in health research. Furthermore, to properly understand the processes (social, psychological or biological) which produce or maintain gender differences in health care and treatment, we must pay attention to the social and historical context of our observations.
References Barry, A. and C. Yuill. 2008. Understanding the Sociology of Health London: SAGE
Baum, F. 2008. The New Public Health, Sydney: Oxford University Press
Bury, M. and J. Gabe. 2004. The Sociology of Health and Illness, London: Routldge
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