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Women Have Fewer Health Problems Than Men, but Perceive Themselves to Be Less Healthy

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Dec 10, 2019

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Men had more health problems than women but perceived themselves to be healthier, whereas women were found to be underconfident about their own health, a new study has found.

The way men and women perceive their own health influences their desire to maintain it. For instance, if a person is confident about being healthy, they are also motivated to eat healthily or exercise to remain that way. But if there is a negative perception about personal health, then the motivation to stay fit is less, researchers concluded.

Published in the American Journal of Health Behavior, the study was trying to understand if men’s perception of personal health differed from women’s and if so, whether that had any role to play in the use of employer-provided wellness resources.

Researchers surveyed 2,784 members of an employee wellness program, of which 68% were women. They were questioned about their health status, health conditions, and their level of confidence when it came to maintaining healthy habits. Questions were also targeted at assessing participants’ stress levels.

Researchers found that men and women reported comparable levels of stress. But, men reported higher levels of physical activity and also expressed a greater level of confidence in their ability to remain physically active — despite suffering from more health problems than women; these health problems included hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol.


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Women, on the other hand, reported lower levels of physical activity and also lower confidence that they would maintain that activity.

“We were surprised by the finding that men felt they were as healthy as women despite having more medical problems,” Dr. Richa Sood, a co-author of the study, said in a press release. “This difference may have cultural roots because gender has been shown to influence self-efficacy, particularly for physical activity.”

The employee wellness programs studied included modules on sleep and stress management, life coaching, counseling, physical activities, as well as centers to pursue hobbies and exercise, but researchers found that all resources were under-utilized, mainly due to lack of awareness.

A similar study conducted in India by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) found skewed perceptions of personal health also influenced the under-use of employer-provided health resources.

Per the ASSOCHAM study, of those aware that their employers offer wellness programs, two-thirds said they don’t think they’re likely to fall ill with heart diseases, cancer, or stroke.

With employees assuming they are immune to diseases, the problem is entrenched. It gets worse because men are overconfident about their own health thinking nothing will happen to them so what use are these employee wellness programs. On the other hand, women’s underconfidence keeps them from motivating them to stay healthy through the help available, per the current study.

“The findings [of the current study] is important information to keep in mind when designing wellness programs, to maximize their utilization and impact on employee health and wellness. Understanding gender differences among working adults can help optimize employee wellness services,” added Dr. Sood.

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Written By Anubhuti Matta

Anubhuti Matta is an associate editor with The Swaddle. When not at work, she’s busy pursuing kathak, reading books on and by women in the Middle East or making dresses out of Indian prints.

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