Who is more likely to experience common disorders: Men, women, or both equally? Lay perceptions in the West of Scotland

Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow G12 8RZ, UK.
International Journal of Epidemiology (Impact Factor: 9.18). 05/2005; 34(2):461-6. DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyh333
Source: PubMed


Gender differences in health are commonly observed by epidemiologists. Little is known about lay beliefs concerning the gender patterning of common conditions.
Using the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study, we analysed responses to a question in a postal questionnaire asking whether respondents 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. This question was answered by 466 females and 353 males, then aged 25, 45, and 65 yr.
Responses were in general in accord with epidemiological findings, but females had significantly lower odds than males of perceiving men as being at greater risk of accidents and heart disease, and higher odds than males of perceiving women as being at greater risk of mental illness.
There was a tendency for each gender to think risks were higher for their own sex than did the other gender. This observation needs further exploration, particularly in the light of the research showing 'optimistic bias' in relation to health, and research suggesting that socioeconomically disadvantaged people may be least likely to perceive socially structured health inequalities.

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Available from: Sally Macintyre
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    • "Many of the differences in women's and men's health outcomes cannot be attributed to biological differences (Phillips 2005). It is necessary to stress the importance of gender in such differences that are in permanent interaction with all elements that shape social reality (Courtenay 2000a, Macintyre et al. 2005). This research forms part of the study of gender inequalities in health and their determinants, and adopts a hermeneutic approach focusing on the experiences of women and men living in an Andalusian city, in southern Spain. "
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    • "As it is traditionally supposed than men are less interested in preventive medicine than are women [5], significant differences in knowledge and attitudes might be anticipated. We also wanted to test, specifically for the case of cancer, the conclusion of a Scottish study of lay beliefs, namely, that each sex perceives itself to be more vulnerable than the opposite sex to major illnesses [6]. We hoped to expand the "scant literature on gender differences in perceived risk and worry for common diseases" ([7] p. 200). "
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