UK has the largest gender health gap in G20, study reveals

According to WHO, men are living healthier and longer lives than ever before but are still more likely to be burdened by illness and are outlived by women in every country.

Scientists are even reporting a coronavirus risk gap. Despite the infection rate being relatively equal between the sexes, the death rate for men is estimated to be 2.8 percent, compared with 1.7 percent for women.

With this in mind, Manual, the wellbeing platform for men, has analyzed health data for 156 countries worldwide across ten categories - including life expectancy, rates of diseases such as diabetes, cancer and obesity, mental health disorders and daily alcohol intake - to find out where has the largest gender health gaps.

Out of the 156 countries studied, men face greater health risks in 58 percent of nations.

It’s widely acknowledged that women are more likely to outlive men in wealthy nations but how do G20 countries, the most advanced and emerging economies in the world, compare?

The data reveals the men’s health gap is largest in Russia (-50) and South Korea (-39). Four further G20 countries in Asia follow this trend – Japan (-27), India (-26), Indonesia (-24) and China (-23):

Surprisingly, over half of the G20 countries studied have healthier men than women. The UK has the largest G20 female health gap, where women are worse off. It’s also the 12th largest globally.

There’s a difference of 38 places between where UK men (87/156) and women (125/156) rank globally amongst their peers across different health and wellbeing categories.

But why is the UK’s women’s health score so low?

When examining how UK women scored in each category, there are several which are significantly lower compared to women in the rest of the world. This, in turn, widens the gap between the UK’s men’s health score.

The female cancer score in the UK is 144th/156 in the world. In comparison, the UK men’s score is 138/156.

UK cancer survival rates have long fallen behind other countries of similar wealth and incomes. Possible reasons include patients being more apprehensive to disclose health concerns than in other countries, lower NHS staffing levels compared to overseas facilities and GPs failing to spot cancer conditions early enough.

The high number of UK female cancer deaths could be attributed to additional factors. For example, the take-up of cervical screening is now the lowest it’s ever been, and uptake of mammograms is at a decade low.

The UK female smoking score is also poor compared to women worldwide. UK women are 91st/156, near the bottom of the list of countries analyzed. Although figures show UK men smoke more, on average, compared to men in other countries they are only in 23rd place globally.

The data also shows UK women are less physically active than most women around the world, coming in at position 107/156. In fact, a recent study showed almost half of British women are not doing enough exercise for their health.

What is interesting is despite the health gap between genders, UK women still have a higher average life expectancy of 83 years compared to UK men’s 79.4 average. Some of the suggested reasons for this include women being more likely to seek healthcare support, disclose symptoms and receive a higher number of preventative diagnoses.

South Africa (0) is the only G20 country to have health equality, but this isn’t positive news. It has the world’s unhealthiest population, with both men and women coming in last place in the study (156/156) due to low life expectancy and high incidences of workplace accidents, alcohol abuse and cancers.

A widening economic gap between the rich and poor could be to blame, with obesity and physical inactivity among the upper classes coexisting with malnutrition in urban townships.

Turkey (-8), Australia (6) and the US (8) have the smallest gender health gaps in the G20.

It really is eye-opening to see the differences between genders when it comes to health. Of the 156 countries studied, 41 percent and over half of the G20 have healthier men than women. But the fact remains that a greater percentage (58%) still have healthier women.

In any case, everyone no matter their gender, age or background, should own their health and happiness by accessing the support available to them and speaking to a medical professional as soon as symptoms appear.

George Pallis, CEO of Manual

The full rankings for gender health gaps worldwide can be explored on the study’s dedicated webpage: https://www.manual.co/mens-health-gap/

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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