This is enforced through the domination of beliefs, theories and ideas that support and justify women’s subordinate position relative to men.

Science is often used as a tool to explain the natural world, and its increasing application to the reproductive process reinforces both the assumption that women’s nurturing role is natural and the expectation that they take on the role of carer. Social theory can provide a context in which to interpret health patterns. In: Earle S, Letherby G (eds) The Sociology of Healthcare: A Reader for Health Professionals. The sociology of gender has demonstrated that there are both structural and subjective differences affecting the lives of men and women. This can be illustrated by looking at the impact on women of socioeconomic status and inequality.

Marxists argue that social institutions such as the government, family, media and health system are influenced by the needs of capitalism, and operate to support the continued accumulation of profit to maintain this unequal situation (Miliband, 2004; Callinicos, 1999). The gender pay and pension gaps, 16.3% and 38% respectively, put older women in particular at risk of poverty and social exclusion which creates barriers to health services. Marxist feminists believe that domestic labour performed by women, including childcare, provides the capitalist system with an army of unpaid labourers whose activities enable family members - particularly men - to work, which subsequently contributes to capitalist growth. This gives rise to the notion that “men die quicker but women are sicker” (Bartley, 2004), although recent figures show that the gender gap is closing (Box 1). Bebbington P (1996) The origins of sex differences in depressive disorder: bridging the gap. This is partly due to the socially constructed roles of men and women, and the relationships between them. They believe that society’s social organisation benefits capitalism at the expense of the majority. Men and women have different expectations and roles imposed on them by society and this has a significant impact on health. There are gender-based differences in life expectancy, healthy life years, health behaviours, mortality, and morbidity risks.

Making the Link: Gender Equality and Health. While a range of socio-economic factors influence health and wellbeing, gender is of particular significance. The Coronavirus Is a Disaster for Feminism. While women have lower mortality rates than men (Annandale, 2014), they also experience greater morbidity and are over-represented in health statistics (White, 2013). However, while gender has a significant effect on health inequalities, these are not simply differences between men and women. Women’s natural reproductive function has increasingly been medicalised. London: Sage Publications. Although data regarding the links between their socioeconomic status and health is relatively limited (Annandale, 2014), it is possible to surmise that more women are located at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale than men, which would contribute to health inequalities between men and women. While there are higher rates of obesity and overweight across the board for men (except for those on the lowest income which are about even) women’s overweight and obesity is much more affected by income. In general, feminists argue that society disadvantages women by constraining them and limiting their opportunities. This is because gender is a social structure which constrains and enables particular kinds of behaviours. Marxist feminists believe this has many advantages for the economy. Just because some women, or some men, have managed to overcome the structural factors which might hold them back does not mean they are not incredibly powerful for other members of their gender. International Review of Psychiatry; 8: 4, 295-332. Žižek’s critique of New Materialism: can we theorise natural subjectivity? Scientific understanding of women’s bodies with regard to reproduction has historically had consequences for their social role (Doyal, 1985).

This explains why there are differences in the impact of economic inequality on health among women; there are also differences in life expectancy for women in different socioeconomic groups (Box 2). Perhaps in an effort to “prove” themselves, young males have a tendency to be less risk averse than young women, making them more likely to take part in contact sports, excessive alcohol consumption and dangerous driving. Gender-related factors also lead to significant divisions within each gender, illustrating that the impact of gender varies as a result of other social factors. In the Policy Precis, EuroHealthNet argues for an integrated holistic approach to health promotion, access to healthcare, and labour market integration based on gender equality; promoting empowerment of all women and girls through full participation in society and decision making; helping parents combine work with parental responsibilities; effective action on gender in the European Pillar of Social Rights; including more gender-relevant indicators in the Social Scoreboard; and examining the links between Sustainable Development Goals 3 (Good health and wellbeing) and 5 (Gender equality). This has the potential to exacerbate health inequalities between men and women, but can lead to inequalities and different experiences of health between people of differing backgrounds within each gender. One way in which we can see the impact of social structures on gender (and differences within genders) is through comparing health outcomes. McDonnell O et al (2009) Social Theory, Health and Healthcare. Cambridge: Polity Press. Sociology in nursing 2: social class and its influence on health, Sociology in nursing 4: the impact of ethnicity on health inequalities, Sociology in nursing 5: the effect of ageing on health inequalities, Global Health Risks: Mortality and Burden of Disease Attributable to Major Risks, Life Expectancy at Birth and Age 65 by Local Areas in the United Kingdom, 2006-08 to 2010-12, Healthy Life Expectancy at Birth for Upper Tier Local Authorities: England 2009-11, Trends in Life Expectancy by the National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification 1982-2006, 211015_How-gender-influences-health-inequalities.pdf, Don’t miss your latest monthly issue of Nursing Times, Winners of the 2020 Student Nursing Times Awards revealed, First trust pledges support for Nursing Times staff wellbeing campaign, Announcing our Student Nursing Times editors for 2020-21, Watch: Glove use, hand hygiene and Covid-19, Expert nurses share their knowledge of pressure ulcers in free-to-watch videos, Patient-facing NHS nurses to receive twice-weekly home Covid-19 tests, Exclusive: Universities in ‘chaotic’ search for nurse clinical placements, Exclusive: Nursing groups urge NMC not to scrap district nurse title, Job advert reignites nursing associate substitution concerns, Second wave brings new reports of ‘awful’ abuse against nurses, ‘The language barrier can affect all aspects of care’, City window display created in ‘recognition of nurses’ hard work’, Voice of community nursing latest to back Nursing Times campaign, Registered Nurse (Acute, A&E, Intensive Care, or Respiratory) Band 5, Nurse and Theatre Practitioner Opportunities, This content is for health professionals only, This article has been double-blind peer reviewed, In England and Wales, between 2007-09 and 2011-13, life expectancy for men increased from 78.1 years to 79.3 years, and for women from 82.2 years to 83.0 years.


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