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Chartbook on Women and Disability

Section 1: Women and disability throughout the life cycle: Definitions and prevalence

1.4. What are threats to health and safety for females, compared to males?

In general, women and girls are less likely to be injured than men and boys. The National Hospital Discharge Survey (1993-1994) revealed that females were less frequently hospitalized than males for internal injuries, sprains and strains, cranial injuries, wounds or lacerations. Females were more frequently hospitalized for poisoning and fractures than males (Fingerhut & Warner, 1997, p. 36). Another survey, however, found that females have overall lower rates of fractures than males (National Health Interview Survey, 1993: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1997, Table 207, p. 38). The chart below shows the number of injuries (per 100 people in the population) that led to restricted activity and/or medical attention, as measured in the NHIS. Over the decade from 1983 to 1993, males were injured more often than females. At all ages, boys and men are more likely than girls and women to die from their injuries.

Males consistently experience more injuries than females.

Line chart. Go to Data Table for Figure 3 for the data values shown in this chart.

Figure 3: Injury rate per 100 population, by gender, 1983-1993

Data Table for Figure 3

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census (1995), Table 207, p. 137.

Surveys: NHIS, multiple years

However, women and girls consistently report more days when illness or injury prevents them from productive activity. The chart below shows the number of days lost per person in 1994, by gender. It uses a number of different categories: bed-disability days (when a person stayed in bed for more than half a day), work-loss days (when a working person lost more than half a day of work) and school-loss days (when a child lost more than half a day of school). These measures are all higher for females than males. The summary measure, restricted-activity days, encompasses all of the above, as well as any other days when a person cut down on activities for more than half a day due to illness or injury. The rate for females (18.2 days per year) is substantially higher than the rate for males (13.6 days per year).

A number of factors may contribute to these differences. Women experience more non-fatal, chronic illness than men, while men's illnesses and injuries tend to be more life-threatening (Verbrugge, 1989). Other findings suggest that women experience more severe and frequent pain, and pain of longer duration than men. Women have also been found to engage in a greater repertoire of coping strategies to deal with pain and illness, perhaps restricting activity more readily than men, in order to heal (National Institutes of Health Pain Research Consortium, 1998, April; Unruh, 1996).

But women and girls experience more loss of productive days due to illness or injury than men or boys.

Vertical bar chart. Go to Data Table for Figure 4 for the data values shown in this chart.

Figure 4: Number of disability days lost annually per person, by gender

Data Table for Figure 4

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census (1997), Table 206, p.138.

Surveys: NHIS, 1994

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