Gender equality helps both women and men live longer, says study
Washington (US), March 7: The first global study to look at how gender equality affects life expectancy discovered that as it improves, both men and women live longer.
However, differences between countries classified as regions based on socioeconomic development and geographic proximity suggest that, while progress in gender equality initially benefits women's lives and health, it also helps men live longer lives, eventually closing the gender gap in life expectancy. Dr Cat Pinho-Gomes, Honorary Research Fellow at The George Institute for Global Health in collaboration with Imperial College London, said the findings, published in lead up to International Women's Day, suggest that addressing longstanding gender inequality and empowering women may help extend longevity for both men and women.
"Many of the factors that determine how long you will live - like working and living conditions, exposure to pollution, access to health care, education, income, and social support - are layered with gender differences around the world," she stated.
"As countries make greater progress towards gender equality and women are afforded the opportunity to participate more fully in political, economic, and social life, the whole of society reaps the rewards."
According to the World Economic Forum's most recent report, global events such as rising living costs, the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency, and large-scale conflict and displacement are impeding progress towards gender parity. This, in turn, may jeopardise socioeconomic development and improvements in living and working conditions, limiting recent gains in life expectancy.
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The researchers used a modified global gender gap index (mGGGI) based on the index developed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and applied it across 156 countries between 2010 and 2021 to investigate whether gender equality was associated with life expectancy (LE) for women and men and to assess the gender gap in life expectancy across the globe.
The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index assesses the current state and evolution of gender equality across four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment). The health dimension was excluded from this study because it includes healthy life expectancy, which was the subject of this study.
"Even high-income countries - where substantial progress has been made to address gender inequalities in recent years - investing in gender equality may still benefit life expectancy, particularly for men. This study confirmed what we had already seen for countries in the EU using a different index, reinforcing the validity of our findings."
"The weaker association between gender equality in the political domain and the gender gap in LE raises concerns about how gender equality is being implemented by political systems worldwide," she added.
"As we've seen from the recent resignations of high-profile female politicians, women still experience significant challenges in this field, including discrimination, balancing private, family and political life, gaining support from political parties, and securing campaign funding."
Overall, each 10% increase in the mGGGI was associated with a 4.3-month increase in women's LE and a 3.5-month increase in men's LE in 2021, resulting in an 8-month wider gender gap, but there was significant variation across geographical regions.
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