New research reveals common beliefs about gender differences in health

April 20, 2005

New research from University of Glasgow researchers on lay perceptions about gender differences in health reveals that both men and women believe health risks are higher for their own sex than for the opposite sex. But, it also shows that males think that men are fitter and females think women are more athletic.

Professor Sally Macintyre in the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow analysed responses from 466 women and 353 men, aged 25, 45, and 65, to a questionnaire that asked whether they thought men or women (or both equally) were more likely to have heart disease, cancer, mental illness and accidents, to be fit and to live longer.

The research provides insights about gender identity and difference. They found that each gender tends to think risks are higher for their own sex than for the other gender. Previous studies suggest that lay people and health professionals operate on stereotypes about the gender patterning of certain types of health problem and health behaviour. For example, coronary heart disease tends to be perceived as a 'male disease' even though it is the leading cause of mortality amongst women in the UK. (One study found that 30 year old women with chest pain were much less likely than 30 year old men to be given a cardiac diagnosis, much more likely to be given a psychiatric diagnosis, and around seven times more likely to be considered not to need medical treatment).

The University of Glasgow study reveals that when a respondent considered one sex more at risk than the other, men were thought more likely to have accidents and women to have cancer and mental illness. Accidents: 48 per cent of males compared to 37 per cent of females said men were more likely to have accidents; 58 per cent of females chose 'both', compared to 50 per cent of males.

Professor Macintyre, from the University of Glasgow, said: "In general these lay perceptions mirror professions perceptions. However, what is unexpected is that when there was a gender difference in attribution of relative likelihood, respondents tended to perceive the risks as higher for their own sex than for the opposite sex. This tendency was also evident in the one condition - fitness - posed in positive terms.

"Previous studies on personal risk assessments suggest a tendency to underestimate one's own risk of illness compared to one's peers - this is often referred to as optimism bias. Our findings suggest in contrast that what may be going on in response to these type of questions is neither an optimistic nor negative bias for one's own sex, but rather a bias towards thinking any health experience, whether positive or negative, is more probable for one's own sex than the opposite sex thinks."
-end-
Jenny Murray, Press Officer, University of Glasgow, tel: 0141 330 8593, email: Jennifer.murray@admin.gla.ac.uk

Sally Macintyre, Laura McKay and Anne Ellaway: 'Who is more likely to experience common disorders: men, women, or both equally? Lay perceptions in the West of Scotland' is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology

The analysis used data from the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study: 'Health in the Community'. The Twenty-07 Study began in 1987 and is following three cohorts (born in 1932, 1952 and 1972), using home-based interviews and postal questionnaires, over 20 years.

University of Glasgow

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.