Research shows big differences in disease causes between men and women

Credit: Unsplash+

A recent study published in The Lancet Public Health reveals that despite efforts over the past 30 years, significant health disparities between males and females (aged 10 and older) continue globally, with minimal progress in closing these gaps.

The study focuses on the top 20 causes of disease burden, exploring how sex and gender differences influence health outcomes across various regions and age groups.

Globally, non-fatal conditions like musculoskeletal disorders, mental health issues, and headaches predominantly affect females, contributing significantly to their overall disease burden through prolonged illness and disability.

In contrast, males are more affected by conditions leading to premature deaths, such as COVID-19, road injuries, and cardiovascular diseases. This difference becomes more pronounced with age, as females generally live longer but with higher levels of disability and illness.

The terms “sex” and “gender” play crucial roles in this context. “Sex” refers to biological differences between males and females, while “gender” encompasses the roles, behaviors, and identities shaped by societal, cultural, and historical contexts.

The interaction between these factors results in varied health experiences for men and women.

Using data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2021, researchers analyzed disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) for both genders across seven world regions from 1990 to 2021.

Notably, the study did not cover sex-specific conditions like gynecological or prostate issues to maintain a focus on common conditions affecting both sexes.

Dr. Luisa Sorio Flor of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation emphasizes the importance of this study, particularly in light of how the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the significant impact of sex differences on health outcomes.

The study’s findings illustrate that biological and social factors affecting health can accumulate over time, leading to different health challenges at various life stages and regions.

The analysis showed that males experienced a higher overall disease burden for 13 out of the top 20 causes in 2021.

For instance, males faced a 45% higher health loss from COVID-19 compared to females, with the most significant disparities seen in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

Similarly, conditions like ischemic heart disease and lung cancer predominantly affected males, especially as they aged.

Dr. Vedavati Patwardhan from the University of California, San Diego, highlights the unique health challenges males face, such as higher rates of premature death from road injuries, cancers, and heart disease.

She calls for national health strategies that address these issues from a young age, including targeting behaviors like alcohol use and smoking.

On the other hand, females disproportionately suffer from conditions that cause disability rather than premature death, such as back pain, depression, and anxiety. These issues begin early in life and worsen with age.

Gabriela Gil from IHME points out that these conditions, especially mental health disorders, are underfunded relative to their burden, suggesting a need for broader health system planning that considers the full spectrum of female health issues.

This study serves as a crucial call to action for better reporting and use of sex- and gender-specific data to develop informed health policies.

Such data are essential for understanding the complex landscape of health disparities and for implementing effective interventions tailored to the distinct needs of different population groups.

Despite international efforts, there remains a significant gap in the availability of detailed sex-disaggregated data, which is critical for addressing these health disparities effectively.

The study advocates for enhanced policy planning and targeted responses that consider the intricate interplay of biological and social factors from an early age.

The persisting global differences in health outcomes between sexes highlight the need for continued attention to gender-specific health issues and the implementation of strategies that address these inequities head-on.

The findings underscore the importance of integrating gender-responsive approaches into health policies to achieve a more equitable and healthy future for all.

If you care about heart health, please read studies that vitamin K helps cut heart disease risk by a third, and a year of exercise reversed worrisome heart failure.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about supplements that could help prevent heart disease, stroke, and results showing this food ingredient may strongly increase heart disease death risk.

The research findings can be found in The Lancet Public Health.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.