The World Health Organisation recently released its World Health Statistics Overview 2019. Several important points related to health have been shared in the WHO report. The most discussed point relates to how men, time and again, are doing much worse than men when it comes to cardiovascular disease, road accidents, suicides and homicide. For instance, globally in 2016, the suicide mortality rates were 1.75 times higher in men than women.
The WHO findings related to reduced life expectancy of males is not due to any single or small number of causes. Several conditions contribute to the differences in life expectancy between men and women, according to the observation made by the WHO report’s key author, Dr. Richard Cibulskis.
In the WHO report, a notable example refers to how child marriage increases risks pertaining to an early pregnancy among girls, whereas higher rates of male employment in the transport industry expose most men to a higher risk of death on the roads. Interestingly, the WHO report points out how the exact contributions that biological differences and gender roles make to health status are often difficult to determine because they do not operate independently.
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Another example in the WHO report refers to the lifetime risk for Alzheimer’s disease. This is greater in women than in men. The rationale is attributed partly because more women survive to ages at which the disease most commonly occurs, although in some locations women also appear to be more susceptible to the Alzheimer’s disease.
The WHO study indicates that life expectancy gap seems to be at its narrowest point where women lack access to health services. For instance, maternal deaths contribute to reducing female life expectancy, more than any other cause. This is an area of serious concern for countries worldwide.
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A stark difference pinpoints to how the risk of maternal death varies hugely between low income countries and high income countries. The data cited in the WHO report also shows that 1 in 41 women die due to a maternal cause and belongs to a low-income country as compared with 1 in 3,300 in a high income country.
In conclusion, however, the WHO report also points out that at all income levels people can suffer catastrophic health expenditures, even in high income countries.
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The urgent need of the hour, as most doctors in India have been strongly advocating is to educate men and women about the health risks they need to prepare ahead for, particularly taking into account several multiple risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes. After all, no matter whether one belongs to a high income group, a middle income group or a low income group, the fact remains: Health is wealth!