How Gender Inequity Impacts on Men’s Health. An Exploration of Theoretical Pathways

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Shane Kavanagh
Melissa Graham


men’s health, masculinities, psychosocial, socioeconomic factors, gender inequality, social inequalities


Empirical studies suggest gender inequity increases men’s health risks. Multiple pathways may explain this relationship. These pathways however have not been explored concurrently. This paper is based on an extensive review of the theoretical literature linking gender inequity to men’s health. It identifies a range of theoretical approaches and examines links between them. In particular, it discusses masculinities and health theory, which argues gender inequity is linked to gender norms that lead to poor health-related beliefs and behaviours; the impact of gender inequity on men’s psychosocial and emotional experiences through limiting social roles, setting unattainable and restrictive expectations, and reducing access to social and emotional support; reproductive pathways, wherein gender inequity compromises optimal reproductive and early life outcomes leading to lifelong health impacts for males; and political, economic and social processes influenced by women’s social position that shape the social and economic resources, such as welfare and support, available to men. There are important interdependencies between these pathways. For example, masculine gender norms appear to not only increase poor health-related beliefs and behaviours, but also limit men’s opportunities to satisfy psychosocial and emotional needs. The findings suggest the extent of gender inequity can accentuate or buffer the negative health effects of other social inequalities. Further, while gender inequity provides men with many benefits, it limits access to the rich array of re-sources required to meet a diversity of lifelong health-related challenges. The paper provides the basis for richer theoretical approaches to men’s health.

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