Sub-goal 5: Equal health
Differences in health between the sexes persist. Women's health is worse than men's in several areas, including mental illness. Large differences are also visible within the group of women and the group of men. There is therefore a need for more knowledge about which factors, in addition to gender, affect human health. Women and men, girls and boys must have the same conditions for good health and be offered care and attention on equal terms. This is the fifth gender equality policy sub-goal.
What are the health differences in Sweden?
There are still differences in health between the sexes. Women report to a greater extent than men that they have problems with their health. They include mental illness, which is increasing more among girls and younger women. The link between health and gender is clear, but factors such as age, disability, country of birth, income and education also affect women's and men's health.
Girls and women are overrepresented when it comes to sick leave linked to mental illness. One explanation may be that the risk of mental illness increases in woman-dominated industries with a poorer work environment.
At the same time as women report poorer health, more men than women die from suicide, in accidents at work, from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Some explanations for the differences may be that norms about gender affect the extent to which men and women seek care, the diagnosis they receive and the treatment they are offered. For example, men are less likely to apply for mental disorders and receive more physical examinations than women whose health problems risk being seen as psychosomatic. There is also a lack of research on diseases that specifically affect women, such as endometriosis and vestibulitis.
Despite the fact that life expectancy in Sweden continues to increase for both men and women, there are groups that are not keeping up with developments. Among women with a low level of education, life expectancy has not increased at the same rate over the past 25 years as for others. An increased retirement age therefore risks affecting older, women with a low level of educatation negatively.
Women with disabilities are a group that rates their health worse compared to the rest of the population, and also compared to men with disabilities. Women with disabilities more often lack a diagnosis and therefore risk not receiving the right support and help. They may have difficulty entering the labour market, something that affects income and, by extension, health.
What is needed for more equal health?
Equal health contributes to more women and men, girls and boys, being able to participate actively in society. The government's fifth gender equality goals include physical, mental, reproductive and sexual health.
The differences in health between the sexes and the increasing health gaps linked to inequalities within the population are a challenge. The Swedish Gender Equality Agency highlights a number of development areas:
- Increase knowledge of factors that affect women's and men's health, such as disability, masculine norms, genital mutilation, men's violence against women, stress in school and working life, the impact of unpaid care and housework.
- Increase knowledge of how digital media affects the mental health of girls and boys.
- Analyse mental illness from a gender perspective.
- Introduce clearer elements of gender equality, gender differences and gender in nursing education.
- Take into account gender-specific conditions and diseases that are more common among women, such as endometriosis, vestibulitis, thyroid problems, menopause and birth defects.
Publication date: 7 January 2022
Last updated: 13 December 2022