- The findings indicate women’s cognitive functioning past middle age can get affected with the degree of gender equality in the country in which they are living
- This research is a first attempt to shed light on important, but understudied, adverse consequences of gender inequality on women’s health in later life
- Sweden came out as a country with the highest female advantage in cognitive performance and Ghana as the country with the highest male advantage
Washington D.C. (USA), August 2, 2017: The results of one of its kind study highlighted the ill effects of gender inequality on women’s health in later life.
The findings indicate women’s cognitive functioning (cerebral activities that lead to knowledge, including all means and mechanisms of acquiring information like reasoning, memory, attention, and language that can lead directly to the attainment of information and, thus, knowledge) past middle age can get affected with the degree of gender equality in the country in which they are living.
According to the ANI Report, researcher, and lead author on the study, Eric Bonsang, explains, “This research is a first attempt to shed light on important, but understudied, adverse consequences of gender inequality on women’s health in later life.” He holds a Ph.D., of University Paris-Dauphine and Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Bonsang said that it shows that women living in countries with gender equality have better cognitive test scores later in life when compared to women living in gender-unequal societies. Moreover, in countries that became more sensitive to gender equality over time, women’s cognitive performance improved relative to male counterparts.
The researchers analyzed the cognitive performance data of participants aged between 50 and 93, drawn from multiple nationally representative surveys such as the US Health and Retirement Study, Europe’s Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement, the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, and the World Health Organization Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health. When all the above-mentioned surveys were taken together, they provided data for a total of 27 countries.
Bonsang and his colleagues Vegard Skirbekk of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and Ursula Staudinger, director of the Columbia Aging Center noted that the difference in men’s and women’s scores on cognitive tests had wide variation across countries.
In Northern European countries, women tend to perform better than men on memory tests, while it’s the opposite case with several Southern European countries. “This observation triggered our curiosity to try to understand what could cause such variations across countries,” said Ursula Staudinger, Ph.D., who is also Robert N. Butler Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health.
Though economic and socioeconomic factors are likely to play a crucial role, Bonsang, Skirbekk, and Staudinger also studied about sociocultural factors such as attitudes about gender roles and if that might also contribute to the variation seen in gender differences in cognitive performance around the world.
The hypothesis was that the women who live in a society with Orthodox attitudes about gender roles would likely to be having lesser access to opportunities for education and employment and would, thus, show lower cognitive performance later in life compared with men of the same age.
All of the surveys included an episodic memory task to measure cognitive performance. Participants were asked to respond to a list of 10 words and were asked to recall as many words as they could immediately; in some surveys, participants were asked to recall the words after a delay also. In addition, some surveys included a task given in order to assess executive function in which participants were asked to name as many animals as they could within one minute.
To examine gender-role attitudes, the researchers focused on participants’ self-reported agreement with the statement- “When jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women.”
Overall, the data showed considerable variation in gender differences and resulting cognitive performance based on it, across different countries. In some countries, women outperformed men; Sweden came out as a country with the highest female advantage in cognitive performance. But in other countries, men outperformed women; In Ghana, the male advantage was the highest.
The researchers hypothesized was proven true that women in countries with less traditional attitudes were likely to have better cognitive performance later in life compared to women in more traditional countries.
Bonsang and his colleagues also noted a good point that changes in gender-role attitudes within a country over time were associated with changes in women’s cognitive performance relative to men.
“Although the data have a correlation, several more detailed examination point towards a causal relationship. The analysis also suggests that gender-role attitudes may play a notable role in important outcomes for women across different countries,” according to the researchers.
Bonsang said, “These findings strengthened the need for policies aiming at reducing gender inequalities as we show that consequences go beyond the labor market and income inequalities.” He also said that it also shows how important it is to take in notice that seemingly intangible influences, such as cultural attitudes and values, when trying to understand cognitive aging.”
The finding of the above research is published online in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
– prepared by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08
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