The role of stress in the relationships between gender and health-promoting behaviours

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies have shown that in Western societies, women live longer than men. Among other factors, this has been attributed to health behaviours; men engage in health-risking behaviours, while women perform health-promoting behaviours. These tendencies were argued to align with cultural notions of masculinity and femininity. There may be some evidence, however, that men and women engage in different types of health-promoting behaviours, and stress may play a role in these tendencies. This study attempts to examine the various types of health-promoting behaviours women engage in and compare them to the tendencies of men. Secondly, it examines the mediating role of stress in the relationships between gender and health-promoting behaviours. The sample was comprised of 402 young Israeli adults. Half were undergraduate university students majoring in social work. The remaining participants were sampled by 'snowball sampling'. Participants completed a questionnaire containing 63 closed-ended questions on various health issues. For the purpose of this study, gender, stress and health-promoting behaviours measures were used. Data were collected over three academic years by the teacher responsible for the course and were received by the author at the end of the data collection phase. The study was approved by the institution's internal review board. The results indicate that,-while women engage in 'type 2 behaviours'- refraining from smoking and drinking, eating breakfast regularly and sleeping 7-8 hours per night-men engage in 'type 1 behaviours'- physical exercise, refraining from snacking, and maintaining an appropriate body mass. We also found that, to some extent, women refrain from 'type 1 behaviours' because of their levels of general stress. Our study suggests that the social construction of masculinity and femininity which undermines individuals' health needs to be challenged and addressed. In particular, the enduring role of stress in women's health outcomes should be addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-580
Number of pages9
JournalScandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Gender
  • Health behaviours
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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