A gender framework for understanding health lifestyles

Soc Sci Med. 2020 Jul 29;265:113182. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113182. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: A health lifestyles approach holds promise for understanding change in women’s and men’s health behaviors and reducing gendered health disparities. The emerging theoretical and empirical literature on health lifestyles (individuals’ bundled health behaviors that are shaped by group-based identities and norms) helps elucidate complex disparities in health behaviors, but research is needed on how gender shapes the development of health lifestyles. This study proposed and assessed a dynamic multilevel framework for understanding health lifestyles that draws on insights from contemporary gender and life course scholarship.

DATA: Using the transition from adolescence into adulthood as an empirical case, we analyzed US data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health; N = 6605), which followed adolescents through young adulthood, collecting information on their health behaviors and social contexts.

FINDINGS: Latent class analyses showed that health lifestyles differed significantly by gender. Results supported the dynamic multilevel framework, finding more variation in health lifestyle behaviors within genders than between, high levels of change across ages, intersections of gender with age, and socioeconomic status as a structural pathway for gender’s influence.

CONCLUSION: Taken together, these findings suggest that conceptualizing gender as a dynamic multilevel system intersecting with other social statuses is fruitful for understanding how health lifestyles form and change. These findings can inform more effective policies to change health behaviors.

PMID:32942201 | DOI:10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113182