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Health risk factors related to life style

Modified on 2013/05/16 15:16 by Haoyi Chen Paths: Read in Order Categorized as Chapter 2 - Health
From gender issues to gender statistics on health risk factors related to life style: illustrative examples

Policy-relevant questions Data needed Sources of data
Are young women or young men more likely current drinkers? Number of current drinkers by sex and age Household surveys such as World Health Surveys
Is tobacco use more common among young women or young men? Number of tobacco users by sex and age Household surveys such as World Health Surveys
Are women or men more likely to be obese? Number of 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, 2010a). However, the proportion of current drinkers tends to be more similar between women and men in more developed regions than in the less developed ones, and at the younger ages (United Nations, 2010a). 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, the tobacco use has increased among younger women and teenage girls (WHO, 2009; United Nations, 2010a). 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, 2010a). In some countries in the more developed regions, women are more often reported as smoking than men.

      Differentials by sex in 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 due 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 due to a combination of biological and social factors. Due to biological differences, the 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 postponement of diagnosis and treatment; and women have greater vulnerability to complications from untreated infections (WHO, 2009; United Nations, 2011a). As for the social factors, women may have difficulties in negotiating condom use with their partners; may be more often victims of sexual violence; and they may have more limited access to diagnostic and treatment services (WHO, 2009; United Nations, 2011a). 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 and others, 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 more often associated 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
    • Number of current drinkers by sex and age

      Number of people currently using tobacco by sex and age

      Number of people who are obese by sex and age

      Number of people doing regularly physical activities by sex and age

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

      Proportion of population using solid fuels for cooking on open fire or stove with no chimney or hood

      Unintentional injuries by sex, age and type of injury

      Occupational injuries by sex, age and type of injury

  • + Sources of data
    • Household surveys focused on health issues may collect data on drinking, tobacco use, anthropometric measures, engagement in physical activity, and daily consumption of fruits or vegetables. Household surveys such as DHS, MICS usually collect data on condom use at last high-risk sex. They also collect data on type 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 Global School-based student Health Survey (GSHS) collect data on health related issues among students 13-15 years old. 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 often collect data on fuels used for cooking.

      Administrative sources may provide data on unintentional injuries, including occupational injuries and road traffic accidents. Civil registration system with complete coverage may provide data on causes of death, including on 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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