LONDON — Women’s rights are actually good for men as well, as gender equality helps both sexes to live longer, a new study suggests. In 2021, researchers say that with every 10-percent improvement in the modified global gender gap index, women’s life expectancy rose by 4.3 months. At the same time, men also saw a jump, increasing by 3.5 months.
According to the Office of National Statistics in the United Kingdom, between 2018 and 2020, male life expectancy stood at 79 years, while women’s hit 82.9 years. With International Women’s Day (March 8) in mind, the study shows that addressing long-standing gender inequality might help extend longevity for both women and men.
“Many of the factors that determine how long you will live – like working and living conditions, exposure to pollution, access to health care, education, income, and social support – are layered with gender differences around the world,” says lead author Dr. Cat Pinho-Gomes, an honorary research fellow at The George Institute for Global Health, U.K. in partnership with Imperial College London, in a media release.
“As countries make greater progress towards gender equality and women are afforded the opportunity to participate more fully in in political, economic, and social life, the whole of society reaps the rewards.”
The researchers also found that gender equality in education had the strongest link with longer life expectancy for both men and women.
“This suggests investing in education is paramount, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, where many girls are still denied access to education and resources are limited,” Dr. Pinho-Gomes continues.
“Even high-income countries – where substantial progress has been made to address gender inequalities in recent years – investing in gender equality may still benefit life expectancy, particularly for men.”
Woman still face challenges in the political world
The team used a modified global gender gap index (mGGGI), based on the index developed by the World Economic Forum (WEF). They applied it across 156 countries between 2010 and 2021. The researchers then used three out of four factors of the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Index that benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity. These factors are economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, and political empowerment.
“This study confirmed what we had already seen for countries in the EU using a different index, reinforcing the validity of our findings,” Dr. Pinho-Gomes explains. “The weaker association between gender equality in the political domain and the gender gap in LE raises concerns about how gender equality is being implemented by political systems worldwide.”
“As we’ve seen from the recent resignations of high-profile female politicians, women still experience significant challenges in this field, including discrimination, balancing private, family and political life, gaining support from political parties, and securing campaign funding,” the researcher says.
“Our study has important implications for policy makers across the globe, particularly as the world gradually recovers from the myriad shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a gendered impact across multiple domains of life,” Dr. Pinho-Gomes concludes. “This International Women’s Day, let’s not forget that the evidence demonstrates that enhancing women’s representation across multiple sectors contributes to wealthier and, hence, healthier societies for all.”
The study is published in the journal PLOS Global Public Health.
South West News Service writer Alice Clifford contributed to this report.