Both gender differences and gender inequalities can give rise to inequities between men and women in health status and access to health care. For example:

  • A woman cannot receive needed health care because norms in her community prevent her from travelling alone to a clinic.
  • A teenage boy dies in an accident because of trying to live up to his peers’ expectations that young men should be "bold" risk-takers.
  • A married woman contracts HIV because societal standards encourage her husband’s promiscuity while simultaneously preventing her from insisting on condom use.
  • A country's lung cancer mortality rate for men far outstrips the corresponding rate for women because smoking is considered an attractive marker of masculinity, while it is frowned upon in women.

In each of these cases, gender norms and values, and resulting behaviours, are negatively affecting health. In fact, the gender picture in a given time and place can be one of the major obstacles - sometimes the single most important obstacle - standing between men and women and the achievement of well-being. WHO

For those who identify with the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate this is now formally defined as 'Cisgender'. 'i' newspaper, Thursday 25th June

In addition, a person can experience discomfort or distress because of a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. This is known as gender dysphoria. For example, some people may have the anatomy of a man, but identify themselves as a woman, while others may not feel they are definitively either male or female. Further information on gender dysphoria is available on NHS Direct Wales.

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 Gender equality and health

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Smoking rates among men tend to be 10 times higher than among women. However, due to recent aggressive tobacco marketing campaigns aimed at women, tobacco use among younger females in developing countries is rising rapidly. Women generally have less success in quitting the habit, have more relapses than men, and nicotine replacement therapy may be less effective among women.

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