Advancing gender equality isn’t just the right thing to do to end poverty and discrimination — it’s also good for health.
Analyzing data from 41 European countries, a recent study of gender and health in Europe by the World Health Organization found that men’s health was worse in countries with low levels of gender equality, Quartz reported.
While men tend to have shorter life spans than women worldwide, the report found that the discrepancies between men and women’s health outcomes were even greater in countries with higher levels of gender inequality.
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Among European men, the majority of males die from injuries and non-communicable diseases.
Cardiovascular diseases and injuries are the two leading causes of premature male deaths in Europe, according to the WHO — and this could be exacerbated by gender inequality and stereotypes.
Traditional gender stereotypes that keep men in the role of breadwinner and systematic discrimination preventing women from equally contributing to their households and participating in the workforce can put additional stress on men, increasing their risk of health issues, according to the study.
Such non-communicable diseases as cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and diabetes are often linked to unhealthy diets, stress, substance abuse, and other habits, which the report connects to behaviors often stereotypically seen as masculine behaviors like heavy drinking and smoking.
Similarly, men, bolstered by cultural norms, tend to take more risks and engage in interpersonal violence more often than women, which could result in fatal injuries, the report found.
And yet, despite these potentially life-threatening behaviors and habits negatively impacting health outcomes, gender stereotypes frequently discourage men from seeking the help they need.
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While the report stops short of saying gender inequality causes worse health outcomes for men, the data speaks for itself.
“Living in a country with gender equality benefits men’s health, producing, for example, lower mortality rates, higher well-being, half the chance of being depressed, a higher likelihood of having protected sex, lower suicide rates, and a 40% reduced risk of violent death,” the authors wrote in a report summary.
The report underscores the need for both men and women to fight for gender equality and to dismantle harmful gender stereotypes.