Perceived gender roles and smoking behaviour

Priska Flandorfer, Vienna Institute of Demography
Christian Wegner, Vienna Institute of Demography

The gender gap in mortality is narrowing in several developed countries since 1970/80’s. Recent research indicates that the decline is mainly influenced by an increase in smoking attributable deaths among women and a decreasing number among men. The central argument is presented by gender equality relating to gender difference in smoking. On one hand, the lack in gender equality caused a later increase in female smoker prevalence by social disapproval of female smoking, on the other hand the increase in gender equality had led to an adoption of previously exclusive male smoking behaviour by females. Our study focuses on the stereotype masculine behaviour which is assumed to be a smoking determinant and is increasingly adopted by females now. We applied a triangulation of qualitative and quantitative methods. Precisely because both methods have different angles - the qualitative one focusing on the knowledge of physicians and the quantitative one on people’s behaviour style - the results complement each other and yield a comprehensive picture. The results indicate a connection between perceived gender roles and smoking behaviour. The knowledge and experiences of physicians present that the attribute ‘masculinity’ is related to a higher risk of smoking and is increasingly adopted by women. The dynamic is influenced by further factors like age, social norms, workforce participation and media. Those factors lead to a change of perceived gender roles in society that can partly explain the increasing amount of smoking women. The quantitative analysis supports these results. Applying Type A behaviour style as an indirect measure of masculinity indicates a strong association with the smoking behaviour of women. Indeed, smoking among males is related to Type A behaviour of high educated and to an absence of Type A behaviour among primary educated men.

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Presented in Session 63: Gender and health