Background: Women experience poorer health than men despite their longer life expectancy, due to a higher prevalence of non-fatal chronic illnesses. This paper aims to explore whether the unequal gender distribution of roles and resources can account for inequalities in general self-rated health (SRH) by gender, across social classes, in a Southern European population.
Methods: Cross-sectional study of residents in Catalonia aged 25-64, using data from the 2006 population living conditions survey (n=5,817). Poisson regression models were used to calculate the fair/poor SRH prevalence ratio (PR) by gender and to estimate the contribution of variables assessing several dimensions of living conditions as the reduction in the PR after their inclusion in the model. Analyses were stratified by social class (non-manual and manual).
Results: SRH was poorer for women among both non-manual (PR 1.39, 95% CI 1.09-1.76) and manual social classes (PR 1.36, 95% CI 1.20-1.56). Adjustment for individual income alone eliminated the association between sex and SRH, especially among manual classes (PR 1.01, 95% CI 0.85-1.19; among non-manual 1.19, 0.92-1.54). The association was also reduced when adjusting by employment conditions among manual classes, and household material and economic situation, time in household chores and residential environment among non-manual classes.
Discussion: Gender inequalities in individual income appear to contribute largely to women's poorer health. Individual income may indicate the availability of economic resources, but also the history of access to the labour market and potentially the degree of independence and power within the household. Policies to facilitate women's labour market participation, to close the gender pay gap, or to raise non-contributory pensions may be helpful to improve women's health.
Keywords: gender; health inequalities; intersectionality; material resources; self-rated health; social class.