The great health divide

August 18, 2017

The great health divide

U-M Office of Research

Life expectancy for women in the United States is 81 years.

Men average 76 years. So why do men live five years fewer than women?

For starters, men are less prone to seek medical treatment. Testosterone increases aggressive behavior in men, which leads to higher death rates from accidents and homicide. And research shows men are two times more likely than women to abuse drugs.

“Gender differences in mortality are mainly behavioral, and thus preventable, as they are learned in society and manifested in high-risk behaviors,” said IHPI member Shervin Assari, a University of Michigan researcher who explores how gender, race and socioeconomic resources influence health. “It’s not in our genetics. It’s learned socially and it can be unlearned.”

With support from the National Institutes of Health (link is external), Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program (link is external) and Richard Tam Foundation at the U-M Depression Center (link is external), Assari has pored through several national surveys to identify health disparities among men and women, whites and blacks, rich and poor.

His findings, which have been published in nearly 200 journal articles over the past decade, help shape how society looks at health.

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