Thursday, January 20, 2011

The real meaning of this study of death

Fascinating stuff on death - always popular with the men's health activist. New research seeking to help answer the question 'why men do die younger than women?' suggests that in the UK about 59% of the gap is down to smoking and 19% to booze. The implication is that men's poorer access to health services - whatever the reason - is not a major factor. This is not so. You can't compare chalk and cheese. Access is not a cause of death in the way that smoking is. Prompt access - seeing your doctor sooner rather than later as women tend to - may mean your smoking-related cancer is cured and you live to die another day from another cause, late access may not.

No, what this research really shows is that the gender death divide is very, very largely about social issues not biological ones. This was a European study and the excess in male deaths varied considerably from 188 per 100,000 of the population a year in Iceland to 942 per 100,000 in Ukraine. Men are biologically much the same in both countries but their behaviour is not. Smoking may be on the decline but I'm sure we men will come up with another way to kill ourselves prematurely - work, for example.

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