Men estimate mens risks of common disorders higher than women do, and vice versa
New research from University of Glasgow researchers on lay perceptions about gender differences in health reveals that both men and women believe health risks are higher for their own sex than for the opposite sex. But, it also shows that males think that men are fitter and females think women are more athletic.
Professor Sally Macintyre in the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow analysed responses from 466 women and 353 men, aged 25, 45, and 65, to a questionnaire that asked whether they thought men or women (or both equally) were more likely to have heart disease, cancer, mental illness and accidents, to be fit and to live longer.
Professor Macintyre, from the University of Glasgow, said: "In general these lay perceptions mirror professions perceptions. However, what is unexpected is that when there was a gender difference in attribution of relative likelihood, respondents tended to perceive the risks as higher for their own sex than for the opposite sex. This tendency was also evident in the one condition – fitness – posed in positive terms.
"Previous studies on personal risk assessments suggest a tendency to underestimate ones own risk of illness compared to ones peers – this is often referred to as optimism bias. Our findings suggest in contrast that what may be going on in response to these type of questions is neither an optimistic nor negative bias for ones own sex, but rather a bias towards thinking any health experience, whether positive or negative, is more probable for ones own sex than the opposite sex thinks."
Jenny Murray | EurekAlert!
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