Journal Article

Is the story about sensitive women and stoical men true? Gender differences in health after adjustment for reporting behavior

Social Science and Medicine, 41–50 (2019)
Open Access


Research indicates that women have higher levels of physical disability and depression and lower scores on physical performance tests compared to men, while the evidence for gender differences in self-rated health is equivocal. Scholars note that these patterns may be related to women over-reporting and men under-reporting health problems, but gender differences in reporting behaviors have not been rigorously tested. Using Wave 1 of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), the present study investigates the extent to which adjusting for differences in reporting behavior modifies gender differences in general health. We also examine whether men and women's reporting behaviors are consistent across different levels of education. After adjusting for reporting heterogeneity, gender differences in both poor and good health widened. However, we found no clear gender-specific patterns in reporting either poor or good health. Our findings also do not provide convincing evidence that education is an important determinant of general health reporting, although the female disadvantage in poor health and the male advantage in good health were more apparent in lower than higher education groups at all ages. The results challenge prevailing stereotypes that women over-report and men under-report health problems and highlight the importance of attending to health problems reported by women and men with equal care.

Keywords: behavior, gender, health
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.