Gender inequalities in health among older Brazilian adults

Sandhi Maria Barreto, Luana Giatti, Alexandre Kalache
Pan American Journal of Public Health 2004, 16 (2): 110-7

OBJECTIVE: To investigate gender differences among older Brazilians in their health status and their use of health services.

METHODS: Participants were individuals aged 60 years and older included in a national household survey conducted in Brazil in 1998. Data were analyzed by multiple logistic regression, taking into account the design effect due to multistage sampling.

RESULTS: There were differences in the health and living conditions of older men and older women that were not explained by age or place of residence. Older women had worse indicators of schooling and personal income but better indicators of housing standards and per capita household income. The older women also reported more chronic diseases, had poorer indicators of independence and physical mobility, sought health services more often, and reported more medical visits in the previous year. Despite their apparent worse health conditions, elderly women in urban areas had lower hospitalization rates in the previous year (odds ratio = 0.89; 95% confidence interval, 0.82-0.96) than did elderly men in urban areas.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that among older Brazilians there are gender inequalities in health that cannot be explained by age and place of residence. The findings raise questions on how health, socioeconomic, and cultural factors influence gender patterns of seeking and using health care in later life in the country. As pressures on health care and health funding increase in Brazil as a result of the aging of the population, there is a need to take a gender perspective into account.

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