Gender and health inequalities among adolescents and adults in Brazil, 1998

Rita Barradas Barata, Márcia Furquim de Almeida, Cláudia Valencia Montero, Zilda Pereira da Silva
Pan American Journal of Public Health 2007, 21 (5): 320-7

OBJECTIVES: To assess the extent of gender inequalities in health status and health services utilization among adolescents and adults in Brazil.

METHODS: A representative sample of 217,248 individuals from 15 to 64 years of age was obtained from the National Household Sample Survey (Pesquisa Nacional de Amostras por Domicílios, PNAD) conducted in 1998 by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics and funded by the Ministry of Health. The study focused on three outcome variables (self-assessed health status, medical visits, and hospitalizations (except childbirth)) and five exposure variables (age, gender, ethnicity, income, and education). Unconditional logistic regression and Mantel-Haenszel stratified analysis was employed. Prevalence rate ratios were calculated for each stratum. Confidence intervals were calculated using the Taylor series, with a 95% confidence interval (95% CI).

RESULTS: Women were more likely to report fair or poor health than men (odds ratio (OR) = 1.33; 95% CI: 1.31-1.35). Gender disparities were significant for all ages, household income brackets, and education levels, and were always unfavorable to women (1.17 < or = OR < or = 1.44). Gender disparities for medical visits were higher for those in good health; tended to fall as age, income, and education increased; and were always favorable for women (1.12 < or = OR < or = 2.06). Gender disparities in hospitalization rates decreased with age, varied according to income and education level in each age group, and were always favorable for women (1.16 < or = OR < or = 1.66).

CONCLUSIONS: The difference in self-reported health status for men and women became even greater after adjusting for socioeconomic variables, suggesting that poorer women have more pronounced, relative differences than men do. The impact of structural determinants, such as education and income, is considerably smaller than the social construct of gender, although the former are more important predictors. Women use health services more often than men do, which is consistent with their health needs. However, medical visit rates show an inverse relationship to health care needs, suggesting an inequitable access to outpatient care, mainly preventive care.

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