Men vs. Women: Whose Health Is Better?
People Tend to Think the Other Sex Is Healthier
WebMD News Archive
April 22, 2005 -- Men and women tend to see their sex's health differently,
say Scottish researchers.
They polled Scottish men and women about heart disease, cancer, mental
illness, accidents, and fitness. The point was to gauge participants' health
In virtually every category, there was some disagreement between the sexes.
In those cases, both men and women said their sex was more likely to experience
the condition in question.
The exception: longevity. Both groups agreed that women generally outlive
"Each gender tends to think it is more likely to experience a range of
conditions than the other gender thinks (with the exception of longevity),"
says the study, which appears in April's International Journal of
Pattern of Health Beliefs
The findings come from a questionnaire mailed to 466 women and 353 men in
two towns in western Scotland. They were asked about the likelihood of the
conditions for men and women in general, not their own personal risk.
The study wasn't huge or very diverse, but it may offer some hints about the
health beliefs of men and women.
At first glance, men and women seemed to hold similar beliefs.
"The majority of respondents said that men and women were equally likely
to have accidents, cancer, mental illness, and to be fitter, and that men were
more likely to get heart disease and women to live longer," write the
researchers, who included Sally Macintyre, PhD, director of the University of
Glasgow's social and public health sciences unit.
"When one sex was considered more at risk than the other, men were
thought more likely to have accidents and women to have cancer and mental
illness," they continue.
However, a closer look at the data showed several splits between the
Gender: The Fault Line for Health Beliefs?
Opinions were significantly different between men and women about which sex
is more likely to have accidents, cancer, heart disease, and mental
- Accidents: 48% of the men polled said men are more likely
to have accidents. That belief was also expressed by 37% of the women. However,
58% of the women said both sexes were equally likely to have accidents,
compared with half of the men.
- Cancer: About two-thirds of participants said both sexes
were equally likely to get cancer. But 12% of men said men were more likely to
get cancer, compared with 3% of women who thought that. In turn, more women
(30%) than men (24%) said women are more likely to have cancer.
The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 710,000 men will
develop cancer in 2005 compared with just over 660,000 women.
- Heart Disease: The majority of both groups said men were
more likely to develop heart disease. That included 79% of men and 59% of
women. The group that said both sexes were equally likely to develop heart
disease included 19% more women than men, says the study.
Before the age of 50, men are more likely to get heart disease. But after
menopause the risk of heart disease steadily climbs in women.
- Fitness: There was a trend for each sex to think it was
fitter than the other.
- Mental illness: Mental illness was more likely among
women, said 31% of women and 18% of men. Among men, 72% said mental illness was
equally likely among both sexes, compared with 61% of women.
The most common mental illnesses are anxiety and depression, which are
thought to be more common among women. However, some of the difference may be
that men are less likely to seek treatment.