Health and the elusive gender equality Can the impact of gender equality on health be measured?

Detta är en avhandling från Umeå : Umeå universitet

Sammanfattning: Background: All over the world men and women show different health patterns, and therecan be many and various reasons for these differences. This thesis therefore evaluates theimpact of gender equality on health. To do this, we must be able to measure gender equality.In this thesis, we develop two new measurements of gender equality and evaluate the relationshipbetween gender equality and health.Methods: Two cross-sectional studies, one register-based and one survey study, are used tocompare different measurements of gender equality and different measurements of health,and the relationship between them. Differences between men and women in relation to healthoutcome are also discussed in the thesis. The register study, comprising 1 097 202 individuals,is based on public registers and includes information on workplace, income, sickness absence,full-time/part-time work, level of education, parental leave and temporary parental leave.A gender equality measurement, the Organizational Gender Gap Index or OGGI, was constructedand 123 companies in two sectors were ranked using the index. Employees in 21 of the mostand least gender-equal companies were invited to participate in a survey. A second genderequality index was constructed based on respondents’ own reports regarding gender equalityin their partner relationship. The variables measured were income, full-time/part-time work,educational level, and responsibilities for and sharing of household duties and parental leave.Both indices were evaluated using the single question: How gender equal is your workplace/your relationship with your partner? The four measurements were dichotomized and testedfor a relationship to health. Health was measured by three different measurements: registerbasedsickness absence, self-reported sickness absence in the past year, and self-rated health.Results: The thesis has produced two new measurements of gender equality, described above.On gender equality in the partner relationship, we found a difference between men and women.Men perceive higher gender equality than they report, while women report more gender equalitythan they perceive. When it comes to gender equality at work, we found that employees perceivetheir company to be more gender equal than the OGGI index shows. This thesis confirms thefindings that men have better health than women regardless of measurement. However, inthis study we also found that increased gender equality decreases these differences. If employeesperceive their company to be gender equal, they have higher odds of rating their health asgood, and this is especially so for women.Conclusion: This thesis supports the hypothesis that differences in health between men andwomen can be related to a lack of gender equality. When men and women have differentpossibilities and power to shape society and their own lives, their health will be affected throughembodiment of both biological and sociological determinants in accordance with the eco-socialtheory. Increased gender equality will decrease the differences in health between men andwomen through convergence. The theory of convergence explains why men and women areaffected differently by greater gender equality. Greater gender equality will also decrease thesocial injustice between men and women and improve justice in accordance with the theoryof justice to gender.The differences found between the indices and the single question on perceived genderequality make clear the need for “hard facts” as an complement to people’s own views on gender equality.