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Gender, Health, and Mortality

Ulla Larsen


Although life expectancy at birth of women in western societies is significantly longer than that of men (e.g., 80 versus 74 years in the United States), women experience more sickness and non-fatal health problems than men (e.g., higher morbidity). Specific biological and behavioral explanations for these gender differences are largely unknown. It remains unclear whether these gender differences in health and mortality are found throughout the world. Here, the term “gender” refers to the way biological differences are socially and culturally constructed and expressed in actions and thoughts, whereas the term “sex” is used to define a biological category based on anatomical and physiological differences between males and females. “Health” is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). “Mortality” is the rate of death in a population in a specified time period. In the year 2000, the overall life expectancy at birth ranged from a high of 81.1 years in Japan (84.7 for women and 77.5 for men) to a low of 37.5 years in Malawi (37.8 for women and 37.1 for men), as measured from the 191 Member States of the WHO. At the beginning of the twentieth century female life expectancy exceeded male life expectancy by only 2–3 years in Europe, North America, and Australia, whereas ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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