The impact of gender inequality on health

gender equality, health

This publication was updated in March 2021. View the update.


There are gender-based differences in life expectancy, healthy life years, health behaviours, mortality, and morbidity risks. This is partly due to the socially constructed roles of men and women, and the relationships between them. These norms influence the health conditions individuals are susceptible to, as well as access to and uptake of health services. EuroHealthNet has examined the impacts of gender inequalities on health and the initiatives already underway to tackle the disparities in a new ‘Policy Précis’ released today - Making the Link: Gender Equality and Health.

Women live longer than men but spend fewer years in good health. The gender pay and pension gaps, 16.3% and 38% respectively, put older women in particular at risk of poverty and social exclusion which creates barriers to health services. Further, gender role conflicts, total workload, and unpaid work have potential adverse effects on women’s wellbeing and long-term health.

The European Union has launched a number of initiatives to try to redress the gender imbalance and its effects, such as the inclusion of gender equality in the European Pillar of Social Rights. Programmes to tackle the causes of inequality have also been developed in Member States.

In the Policy Precis, EuroHealthNet argues for an integrated holistic approach to health promotion, access to healthcare, and labour market integration based on gender equality; promoting empowerment of all women and girls through full participation in society and decision making; helping parents combine work with parental responsibilities; effective action on gender in the European Pillar of Social Rights; including more gender-relevant indicators in the Social Scoreboard; and examining the links between Sustainable Development Goals 3 (Good health and wellbeing) and 5 (Gender equality).