Natural disasters impact men and women to different extents and in different ways. In some cases they have been found to reduce the life expectancy of women more than men, but only among some groups of women. Accounting for other factors that influences these differences is important to build and sustain climate resilient health systems that are better prepared and responsive for all people.
Natural disasters impact men and women to different extents and in different ways. In some cases they have been found to reduce the life expectancy of women more than men, but only among some groups of women i.e. the higher a woman’s socioeconomic status the smaller the gender gap with men (154). Following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, preliminary assessments of mortality rates suggested greater impacts among women than men (155). The impacts of extreme weather events on mortality could also be mediated by gendered expectations. For example, in Australia, men have been shown to be disproportionately more likely to be killed by bushfires, since they tend to stay to defend their properties (156). Similarly, in 1999 floods in Hunan, China men were at greater risk of premature death, which was related to their greater involvement in rescue efforts (157). This highlights the importance of going beyond prioritisation of women and building in a sex and gender focus to account for other factors that might contribute to differences between and among women and men (23).
Climate change increases food insecurity among girls and women more than among boys and men, due to cultural norms. In Viet Nam during periods of food scarcity, women have been shown to be more likely to skip meals than men (158). Increases in the spread of water- and vector-borne diseases, such as cholera, malaria, dengue, and schistosomiasis, is another consequence of climate change. Due to both sex differences and gendered patterns of behavior, women and men differ in their vulnerability to these increased health risks. A study in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia and Malaysia has demonstrated that men are at greater risk of dengue, which may be related to their greater likelihood to migrate to urban areas (159). The appearance of mosquitoes carrying malaria in high-elevation areas of Papua New Guinea poses greatest risks for pregnant women given immunosuppression and or loss of acquired immunity during pregnancy leads to a higher vulnerability to malaria infection (7,8,160).
Climate change impacts the mental health of men and women differently. Studies after flooding in Hunan, China (161) and following Black Saturday bushfires in Australia (162) showed women to have significantly higher odds of developing post-traumatic stress disorders than men. In the post-Haiyan Philippines, increased care responsibilities women had to bear increased incidence of depression among them (163). Traditional masculinities and related expectations lead men to respond to extreme climatic events differently from women. Men in Australia (162) and in Viet Nam (166) have been shown to have increased odds of drinking heavily. Increased drought index is associated with increased suicide risks among male, but not among female farmers in Australia (167).
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