Men’s and women’s health is shaped by various levels of influence including:

  • Individual Factors (how we take care of our own health)
  • Social Factors (how society treats men and women)
  • Structural Factors (the amount of resources we invest in men’s and women’s health)

The clear gaps between men’s and women’s health across every level are driven by a combination of biological sex differences and psychosocial gender differences. For example, the fact that breast cancer predominantly affects women and only men get prostate cancer, is a result of biological sex differences.

Psychosocial gender differences refer to:

  • The different life stresses men and women face
  • The different ways men and women are able to respond to those life stresses

For example, while there are greater expectations on men to provide financial support to their partner and family, women face greater expectations to provide unpaid care. These expectations are shaped by a combination of social pressure and individual choice. The question of whether these pressures and choices are naturally evolved, socially conditioned or a combination of nature and nurture, is subject to ongoing debate.

In the world of health, the term “gender” is most commonly used to refer to women’s health issues and/or the socially-constructed differences between men and women. As such, many strategic approaches to gender and health tend to be limited in one of the following ways:

  • They exclude men’s health issues (or give men’s health lower status)
  • They view masculinity as a health risk
  • They take an “equity” approach that focuses on deconstructing gender differences
  • They exclude those who hold diverse views about gender, health and politics

If we want to create a healthier future for everyone, then we need to place far greater focus on finding ways for governments, institutions and communities to work together to take better care of men and boys’ health and ensure a diversity of viewpoints are included in our combined efforts to improve public health for the benefit of everyone.

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