Improving women's rights could actually benefit men too, according to new research, the first global study to investigate the connection between gender equality and life expectancy.
The research, published Monday in peer-reviewed journal PLOS Global Health, found that overall in 2021 with every 10-percent improvement in the modified global gender gap index (mGGGI), women’s life expectancy rose by 4.3 months. Simultaneously, men also improvement, with life expectancy increasing by 3.5 months.
What is the modified global gender gap index?
The research team, based in London, used mGGGI, which is based on the index developed by the World Economic Forum (WEF). They applied it across 156 countries between 2010 and 2021. Next, the researchers examined three out of four factors of the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Index that benchmarks current and future state of gender parity: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, and political empowerment.
They found that gender equality in education had the strongest association with longer life expectancy for both genders, while improvement is still needed in economics and politics.
“This suggests investing in education is paramount, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, where many girls are still denied access to education and resources are limited,” said study author Dr Cat Pinho-Gomes.
Pinho-Gomes continued: “Many of the factors that determine how long you will live - like working and living conditions, exposure to pollution, access to health care, education, income, and social support - are layered with gender differences around the world."
“As countries make greater progress towards gender equality and women are afforded the opportunity to participate more fully in in political, economic, and social life, the whole of society reaps the rewards.”
The researchers emphasized that these findings are significant because progress in gender equality helps men to live longer too, which with time could narrow the gender gap in life expectancy.