Longevity and Gender Differences in Health

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In the social context, men have been perceived as being the superior gender throughout time. However, with more focus on scientific justification, it has been proven that men do not live as long as women. Research proves that there is a definitive role for gender within health and illness. There are many factors that are instrumental in understanding which health-related differences arise within men in contrast with women. Such factors include the gender differences present in illness, the role of health behavior, and health beliefs.

Gender Differences in Illness

Illness, consequently, affects longevity. With a substantial amount of research, there are known to be various gender differences in illness. For example, women are more susceptible to becoming obese than men. They are also more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure, depression, back ailments, migraines, arthritis, piles, and varicose veins. However, it is more probable for men to be subject to lung cancer, digestive disorders, and HIV/AIDS. The illnesses men are prone to acquiring are more likely to be terminal.

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Health Behavior

Studies have shown that there is a correlation between gender differences and health and illness relating to health behaviors. Men are more likely to partake in unhealthy behaviors. For example, it is more common for men to eat more fat, meat, and salt than fruit, vegetables, and fiber. Diet plays a key role in longevity. 'You are what you eat', as they say. Men are also more likely to smoke and use higher levels of drugs and alcohol. With the stigma behind self-care and personal development being seen as feminine; men tend to be less motivated in enacting a lifestyle change.


Men are found to partake in more risky behavior than women. Not only do men drink, smoke, and use drugs more than women, they do so excessively. Although we are entering an era where we understand that women should not be belittled for their extent of sexual partners, men tend to have more sexual partners. The more sexual partners one has increases susceptibility to sexually transmitted diseases. Men are also known to participate in high-risk activities such as bungee jumping or sky diving. Consequently, resulting in higher rates of accidental injury and death amongst.


A key component to staying healthy and maintaining optimal wellness involves the adequate utilization of health care. The usage of health care services amongst differing genders remains a factor in longevity. Men tend to use health care less than women and are often delayed in asking for help and defining symptoms. Furthermore, men are found to be less motivated to obtain screening tests and health check-ups. “Such factors cause delayed help-seeking which could contribute to gender differences in life expectancy and causes of mortality if men wait until their illness has progressed before accessing medical care” (Ogden, 2019).

Health Beliefs

Risk Perception

Research has proven that men and women hold different beliefs about their health, which influences behaviors. When addressing risk perception, men often underestimate their risk for a given illness or injury. Men perceive themselves as not being at risk of the effects of smoking, usage of drugs and alcohol, HIV, and skin cancer. Additionally, men accept the risks of dangerous driving. Men and women hold different perceptions of control. Although men value their status of health higher, they are known to seek help later, resulting in decreased longevity. “Men, therefore, show a profile of health beliefs which may contribute to behaving in less healthy ways and in turn, having shorter life expectancy than women” (Ogden, 2019).

Social Norms

Every society holds social norms pertaining to masculinity and femininity. These social norms relate to an individual's behavior. In contemporary society, to be concerned about your health is perceived as feminine. Men are held to a certain standard of being, confined to gender constructs. “Men are positioned as naturally strong, resistant to disease, unresponsive to pain and physical distress, and unconcerned with minor symptoms” (Lee and Owens, 2002).

Furthermore, proving that society encourages men to conform to masculine behavior and avoid what is feminine. Often resulting in men partaking in stereotypical scenarios that are unhealthy and risky. Femininity, however, revolves around self-care. This characterization creates opposition for self-care amongst men. Society has enacted masculine norms that encourage behaviors and beliefs that negatively impact the health of men. Because women are encouraged to play an active role in their wellness while men are discouraged, they are more likely to surpass men in longevity.


How one copes leads to how one carries out a certain behavior. Men don’t want to share their emotions or seek out help when they are upset. However, it is acceptable for women to be emotional and expressive in coping. A lack of emotional expression has been known to have implications on health and behavior. Avoidant coping often surfaces as men are opposed to voicing their problems. This results in bad behavioral choices. Additionally, repressive coping and denial are detrimental and result in the increase of a stress response which in turn, graduates to an external stressor. The sole exception, with regard to emotional expression, is anger. Men are known to express higher levels of hostility and anger than women. Anger and hostility have been linked to cardiovascular disease.


Men and women are inherently different. Within health and illness is a multitude of factors contributing to why men do not live as long as women. With regard to illness, the difference in gender and bodily structure makes way for contrasting susceptibility of illnesses. Behavior creates actions, and actions affect lifestyles. Health behavior is studied to understand how a person acts and how it influences their status of well-being. There are many behavioral factors that can impact physical well-being and various medical conditions. Men often choose to take part in high-risk activities, which consequently result in increased rates of injury. The contrasting behaviors men choose to partake in play an instrumental role in their longevity. As a collective, men are less active in seeking medical help. The differing health beliefs both men and women hold influence their behaviors. Men are found to perceive risk and control less significantly than women. With social norms in place, men are set to a certain standard in which they must not waver in fear of being seen as feminine. These norms affect men's ability to cope and express basic emotions. When looking at the source of longevity and its contrast between genders, we must look at the gender differences present in illness, the role of health behavior and health beliefs. It is only then that we can determine why women outlive men.

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Longevity and Gender Differences in Health. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 12, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/longevity-and-gender-differences-in-health/
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