Male and female health: Side by side

Amanda Lyons

19/03/2019 3:37:31 PM

New reports detail overall health data for Australian men and women, revealing some informative differences – and similarities – between genders.

Map of Australia
The AIHW reports on Australian men’s and women’s health show some interesting similarities and differences between genders.

Parallel Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports divide data into distinct categories, covering demographics, lifestyle, self-reported levels of health and methods of access to healthcare.
They offer a comprehensive snapshot of men’s and women’s health throughout the nation, while explaining how it can be mediated by additional factors such as socioeconomic status and ethnicity.
Here are summaries of some of the reports’ key points, and how the genders compare.
Overall, Australia’s population contains slightly more females, at a ratio of 101.6 females for every 100 males. Women’s median age is 38.1 years, compared to men’s 36.4 years. By the time they reach the age bracket of 65 years and over, women outnumber men at a rate of 116 to every 100.
The numbers of people who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander are the same for both men and women, with genders also equally distributed across major cities and regional areas. However, this changes in remote and very remote areas, where males outnumber females by 113 to every 100.
While women are more likely than men to experience poverty, at 15% compared to 13%, men are almost 30% more likely to experience homelessness and more than 10 times likely to be in prison.
Lifestyle and risk factors
One in two Australians aged 18–64, male and female, is getting enough exercise, with exercise rates highest for both genders between the ages of 25–34 and declining thereafter.
Six out of 10 women are overweight or obese, and seven out of 10 men. These numbers are mediated by other factors for both genders, with people in lower socioeconomic or remote areas more likely to be overweight or obese. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people also have higher rates of obesity and overweight.
Tobacco smoking, identified as the leading preventable cause of poor health and death in Australia, has declined to low percentages in younger age groups for both men and women, but men are slightly more likely to be smokers than their female counterparts. Also, like obesity, this is mediated by other factors such as socioeconomic status and identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
Men are definitely far more likely than women to engage in excessive alcohol consumption. More than half of men aged 18 and over exceed the single-occasion risk threshold for alcohol, and one in four exceed the lifetime risk guideline, compared to 32% and 9.3% among women.
Rates of illicit substance use were significantly lower in both men and women, although some may be surprised at the rates recorded in the age group of 20–29, which sit at 25% for women and 32% for men.
Both genders experience violence at largely equal rates – women at almost two in five, men at slightly more than two in five – although the nature of the violence is distributed differently, with 41% of men experiencing physical violence and 4.7% sexual violence, compared to 31% physical violence and 18% sexual violence for women.
Women were also more likely to experience sexual harassment, at 53%, although men reported a rate of 25%.

The AIHW found that six out of 10 women and seven out of 10 men are overweight or obese​. (Image: World Obesity image bank)

How healthy?
Men and women reported similar levels of health, with three in five women ranking their health as excellent or very good, compared to nearly three in five men.
They also had the same rates of chronic disease, at one person in two. However, these rates were experienced differently by gender, with men’s most common being cardiovascular disease (CVD) while women’s were mental and behavioural problems.
While cancer itself came last on the list of chronic diseases for both men and women, the top cancers experienced differed by gender, with prostate cancer leading for men and breast cancer leading for women.
Mental health is a significant concern for both genders, with nearly half of all Australians reporting experience of this problem.
Cancer topped the burden of disease list for both genders, but there were interesting differences in other illnesses; for example, respiratory disease was higher on the list for women while injuries were a bigger problem for men.
Men can now look forward to a life expectancy of 80.5 years, and women, 84.6 years. However, there remains a significant gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with women expecting 75.6 years and men 71.6 years.
Males have a higher rate of premature deaths, at 62%. People who live very remotely, whether male or female, have a higher percentage of potentially avoidable deaths.
Causes of death were similar between men and women, although there were some significant differences; for example, women are more likely to die from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and men of CVD. Suicide is present in men’s cause of death list, but absent from the women’s list.
Access to healthcare
Data in this area showed that women claim services on Medicare more often, at an average of 19 services per year compared to 14 for men.
Numbers of Medicare claims rise with age for both genders, although they fall slightly for women once they reach 85 years or older. Both men and women who have some form of private health insurance sit at a rate of 57%.
GP visit rates are high for both genders, with nine in 10 women and eight in 10 men reporting a visit in the past 12 months. However, nearly one in 10 men reported being unable to access healthcare when they needed it in the last 12 months.

AIHW data men’s health women’s health

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Dr.Reza Shahriari   20/03/2019 10:01:00 AM

Thank you, Good luck.

Lily   20/03/2019 10:36:03 AM

Nope, my cancer was not a chronic disease. I HAD breast cancer. My treatment is over. I DO NOT HAVE breast cancer.

Starting considering how your patients think and respond, instead of your 'tick 'n flick' approach to patient care.

Lily   20/03/2019 2:38:00 PM

Thank you for your kind thoughts, Dr Shahriari.

An additional comment is not to refer to a person who completed treatment as a 'survivor'. If you're going to label them at all, use the same label applied to the other people sitting in your waiting room - 'a patient'.

'Survivor' is a nonsensical term as it won't be known until one's death certificate is issued. If one dies of cancer then they were never a 'survivor'. If they die of another cause, only then can it be decreed that they 'survived' cancer.