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Health risk factors related to life style

Modified on 2015/05/12 11:07 by Sean Zheng Paths: Read in Order Categorized as Chapter 2 - Health
Table II.30

From gender issues to gender statistics on health risk factors related to lifestyle: illustrative examples

Policy-relevant questions Data needed Sources of data
Are young women or young men more likely to be current drinkers? Current drinkers by sex and age. Household surveys, such as world health surveys.
Is tobacco use more common among young women or young men? Tobacco users by sex and age. Household surveys, such as world health surveys.
Are women or men more likely to be obese? Obese people by sex. Household surveys, such as world health surveys.

  • + Gender issues
    • Social and cultural factors have traditionally led men to take up health-damaging habits, such as drinking and smoking. Men tend to consume more alcohol than women in all regions of the world and at all ages (United Nations, 2010). However, the proportion of current drinkers among women and men tends to be more similar in the more developed regions than in the less developed ones and at younger ages (United Nations, 2010). Similar to alcohol consumption, tobacco use is more common among men than among women. Traditionally, in many countries, women have not smoked or used tobacco as frequently as men. However, tobacco use has increased among younger women and teenage girls (WHO, 2009; United Nations, 2010). The gender gap in tobacco use is smaller in the more developed regions and in certain less developed regions, such as South America (United Nations, 2010). In some countries in the more developed regions, women are more often reported as smoking than men.

      Sex differentials in the prevalence of obesity vary across and within countries. Once considered a problem of the developed countries, obesity can be seen today in many parts of the world. Obesity, often the result of sedentary lifestyles and unbalanced diets, puts an individual at increased risk for many diseases and health problems, including hypertension and diabetes (WHO, 2009). While information on sex differences in balanced nutrition are rarely available, limited information on physical activity suggests that, in some countries in Asia, girls and women tend to be engaged less often in physical exercise, often owing to cultural norms (WHO, 2009).

      Unsafe sex, which can lead to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, may be a more important health risk factor for women than for men. Women may be more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections owing to a combination of biological and social factors. Because of biological differences, infections are more easily transmitted from men to women than from women to men; for specific types of infections, the symptoms may be less evident in women than in men, leading to a postponement of diagnosis and treatment; and women have greater vulnerability to complications from untreated infections (WHO, 2009; United Nations, Economic and Social Council, 2011). As for social factors, women may have difficulties negotiating condom use with their partners; may more often be victims of sexual violence; and may have more limited access to diagnostic and treatment services (WHO, 2009; United Nations, Economic and Social Council, 2011). As a result, women may have a greater morbidity from sexually transmitted infections than men do. The longer-term consequences of sexually transmitted infections for women are severe and include infertility, ectopic pregnancy and cancers, as well as increased vulnerability to HIV infection (WHO, 2009).

      In many countries, women are more exposed than men to indoor air pollution. In households where the cooking is done with solid fuels and the ventilation is poor, women are more likely than men to develop acute lower respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer (Desai, Mehta and Smith, 2004). The increased health risk for women is mainly due to the fact that women spend more time indoors and more time near the fire while cooking and are therefore more exposed to high-intensity pollution episodes (WHO, 2006).

      Unintentional injuries, including occupational injuries, are associated more often with men than with women (WHO, 2008). Unintentional injuries represent a large share of male deaths but a relatively small share of female deaths. Similarly, adult mortality rates due to unintentional injuries, including road traffic accidents, are much higher for men than for women.

  • + Data needed
    • Data on health risk factors related to lifestyle may refer to:

      (a) People currently drinking by sex and age;

      (b) People currently using tobacco by sex and age;

      (c) People who are obese by sex and age;

      (d) People engaging regularly in physical activity by sex and age;

      (e) Condom use at last high-risk sexual encounter (i.e., sex with a non-marital, non-cohabiting partner) by sex and age;

      (f) Proportion of population using solid fuels for cooking on an open fire or stove with no chimney or hood;

      (g) Unintentional injuries by sex, age and type of injury;

      (h) Occupational injuries by sex, age and type of injury.


  • + Sources of data
    • Household surveys focused on health issues may be used to collect data on drinking, tobacco use, anthropometric measures, engagement in physical activity and daily consumption of fruits or vegetables. Household surveys, such as DHS and MICS, are usually used to collect data on condom use during last high-risk sexual encounter. They can also be used to collect data on types of fuels used for cooking along with information on ventilation factors, such as type of stove and place of cooking.

      School-based surveys, such as the Global School-based Student Health Survey, are used to collect data on health-related issues among students aged 13 to 15. Among the issues covered are alcohol use, dietary behaviour, drug use, hygiene, physical activity, sexual behaviour, tobacco use, violence and unintentional injuries.

      Population and housing censuses are often used to collect data on fuels used for cooking.

      Administrative records may provide data on unintentional injuries, including occupational injuries and road traffic accidents. Civil registration systems with complete coverage may provide data on causes of death, including deaths due to unintentional injuries.

  • + Conceptual and measurement issues
    • The type or frequency of alcohol consumption (e.g., binge drinking, hard liquor) may vary by sex and surveys may not adequately distinguish the relevant risk behaviours.

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