Patriarchal attitudes and practices explain half the discrepancy in life expectancy between sexes


Is patriarchy the source of menís higher mortality? J Epidemiol Community Health 2005; 59: 873-6

Systematic male dominance - patriarchy - explains half the discrepancy in life expectancy between the sexes, suggests research spanning four continents in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The researchers base their findings on a comparison of the rates of female murders and male death rates from all causes in 51 countries across Europe, Australasia, Asia, North and South America.

Rates of violence against women are used to indicate the extent of societal male dominance over women, otherwise known as patriarchy.

The wealth of a country, as indicated by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per head of the population, was also taken into consideration, as socioeconomic factors are strongly linked to health.

The results showed that women lived longer than men in every single country included in the study, with murder rates among both sexes and GDP strongly linked to death rates in men.

GDP accounted for 13.6% of the variation in death rates among men. But this was nowhere near as high as the female murder rates, which accounted for 48.8% of the variation in death rates among men. Male murder rates accounted for just 3.5%.

The higher the rate of female murders, and therefore the greater the level of patriarchy, the higher were the death rates among men and therefore the shorter their life expectancy, the figures showed.

"Our data suggest that oppression and exploitation harm the oppressors as well as those they oppress," conclude the authors, adding that the higher death rate among men, and hence their shorter life expectancy, is "a preventable social condition, which can potentially be tackled through global social policy."

They cite the way that children and young people are currently socialised into patriarchal gender roles, such as those emphasising excessive risk taking, aggression, and the suppression of emotions by boys and young men, as examples that need to be tackled.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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