Women's rights are good for men's health

08 February 2014

In societies where women are equal to men, males stand a better chance of living longer, a new study shows.

Women's rights are good for men's healthResearchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and colleagues found gender differences in mortality rates are higher in more patriarchal societies.

Men living in the top 25 per cent most patriarchal societies were 31 per cent more likely to die than men in the least patriarchal quartile, compared to mortality rates for women. This only includes the societies with high quality infrastructures that provide reliable data; the true difference may be even higher, according to the study led by U-M researcher Daniel Kruger.

Males in societies where they are more socially dominant tend to engage in riskier behaviours that can lead to death, Kruger says. These societies also tend to have more resources and social status concentrated in a smaller group of elite men, compared to those that are more egalitarian overall.

Men with greater control of resources and social status historically have had more reproductive success.

In their quest for social dominance, men will go up against other men to gain power and engage in forms of competitive, and sometimes dangerous, behaviour, the study shows.

"Gender inequality is inherently related to inequality in general, and this is bad for both men and women's health, though especially harmful to men in increasing the risk of death," Kruger said.

Kruger and colleagues used sociodemographic and mortality data from the World Health Organization to study death rates for males and females.

They examined all external behavioral causes, such as accidents, homicides and suicides, and internal behavioral causes, including cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease and infectious diseases.

Men in the top 25 per cent most patriarchal societies were 20 per cent more likely to die of internal causes than those in the bottom 25 per cent, and more than twice as likely to die from behavioural causes (as compared to mortality rates for women).

Kruger says there have been numerous studies on the health effects of inequality on women, but little in evidence on the role patriarchy has on the health of men. The study appears in the American Psychological Association publication Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences.

Other researchers were psychologist Maryanne Fisher of St. Mary's University in Nova Scotia and independent researcher Paula Wright of Newcastle, England.

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