Sex refers to biological features that distinguish women from men. Gender is a social concept that characterizes the special norms, roles, power distribution and relations between women and men.

Gender inequality is at the root of unfair health outcomes for women and girls.

Basic facts

Women and health
  • The health of women and girls is affected by gender-related biological aspects, gender factors and other social determinants.
  • Women have longer life expectancy than men. In 2016, global life expectancy at birth was 74.2 years for women and 69.8 years for men.
  • At the same time, women are ill and use health services more than men, in particular due to their reproductive health needs.
  • Non-communicable diseases remain the leading cause of death for women globally, with 18.9 million deaths worldwide in 2015.
  • Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death for women. Cancers are the most common cervical and breast cancers, and lung cancer is the leading cause of death.
  • Depression is more prevalent among women (5.1%) than men (3.6%). Unipolar depression is twice as likely to occur in women.
  • Harm, including suicide, occurs throughout life and in 2016 was the second most important cause of death among women aged 15-29 globally.
Women and health
  • One in three women in the world is likely to experience physical and/or sexual violence throughout their lifetime.
  • In conflict-affected and displaced areas, women and girls suffer disproportionately as a result of the disruption of health systems, poor access to health care and the use of rape and other forms of violence as a weapon of war.
  • Some 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Women, especially girls aged 15-24, represent the majority of people living with HIV.
  • In families and communities, women perform basic care functions.
  • Women make up 70 percent of the world’s health and social workers, yet half of women’s contribution to global health comes in the form of unpaid care, equivalent to $3 trillion per year.

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